The Next Day…Revisited

It’s the day after the end of the NFL’s regular season. Twelve teams still have high hopes to end up with a Super Bowl ring in 2013. Twelve groups of fans still have something to cheer for. But for players and staff of 20 out of the 32 teams, the year is over with. My own Oakland Raiders did what they have become very good at–they tanked with four wins and 12 losses.

And so this morning I am sitting in my living room, watching the NFL network and hearing well-known names of general managers and coaches who are suddenly out of a job. Lovie Smith. Romeo Crennel. Andy Reid. At one time, each of them was given the keys to the Maserati and told to drive the team as fast and as far as they could go. Some of them actually did pretty good this year–Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears ended up with a 10-6 win-loss ratio, and still missed the playoffs. But in the highly competitive world of the NFL, it’s not about being just good. You have to be better than the competition.

Every year, millions of young boys dream of someday playing in the NFL, or the NBA, or major league baseball. And whenever one shows promise, they are pushed in that direction. The trouble is, there are only a limited number of spaces available in the NFL. The job calls for complete dedication. And many men who go through years in the NFL end up with brain injuries, back and knee problems, as well as myriad other challenges.

Why do they do it? Because they dare to dream that they could be special, better than the competition.

And writing is no less a matter of competition. Gone are the days of saying, “Look, I wrote a short story. I must be a writer now.” It’s a highly competitive business.

As I was told early on, if you can make a living doing anything else, do it. But if you write because you must, because it is part of who you are, then do it. But know what you are getting into.

NFL GMs and coaches do what they do as long as they can, knowing that not everyone gets a chance to go to the Super Bowl. But they recognize that just being in the NFL is a privilege.

It’s not about the money. It’s about the game.