This year’s Heisman (giving to nation’s top/most influential football player) trophy winner was Robert Griffin III. I didn’t watch the Heisman award ceremony, but heard just a snippet of his speech. But I think the snippet spoke volumes. So did ESPN.
He took a few long strides up to the stage and let out a laugh when he got there, making a joke about the Superman socks — complete with capes on the back — he was wearing before going into his acceptance speech.
“This is unbelievably believable,” he said. “It’s unbelievable because in the moment we’re all amazed when great things happen. But it’s believable because great things don’t happen without hard work.”
What I did notice was an emphasis on the role of hard work and how it enabled him to achieve this goal. Here are my takes on how Griffin’s acceptance speech differed vastly from Tebow’s.
1.) Praise. One praised His God for the drive, opportunity, skill, and ability to put in the hard work necessary. The other praised himself for his hard work, and his teammates’ for their hard work in enabling him to win the award. It is interesting to me how it is more offensive to give credit to someone’s God than to take credit and praise oneself. Usually in life, we call people who praise themselves arrogant, self-absorbed, or sometimes narcissistic. Yet most people were clearly more offended by Tebow’s humility and deflection of praise.
2.) Credit where credit is due. The Heisman trophy winner is about perception. Again I didn’t hear the whole speech, so he might have credited the media who threw its support behind Griffin the final few weeks. I tend to doubt that though. Most athletes don’t recognize the media for giving them their fame but only for the media’s not granting them fame or coverage. Without much of the media’s coverage and backing, a QB from Baylor does not win out over a big name quarterback or running back at a big name school like Stanford or Alabama.
3.) Hard work? Whatever we do, whether playing football or operating a toll booth (that seems like one of the harder jobs), we are to work at it with all of our hearts; for in such cases, as in all cases, we are ultimately serving the Lord (Col 3:23-24). Are those who win necessarily those who work the hardest? Did Griffin work harder than others with known ‘work ethics’? Despite hard work, let’s remember this is football. Each game can bring out a career or season ending injury. Peyton Manning, known for being one of the hardest working quarterbacks in the NFL, couldn’t outwork God’s providence. He didn’t play a down this year because of neck surgery. Providence can always trump hard work when someone hits you below the knees like someone did to the seemingly untouchable, hard working, Patriots QB Tom Brady several years ago.
4.) Opportunity knocks. No matter the amount of hard work, there still comes a time where the opportunity, or lack thereof, will more often than not, trump hard work. For instance, if you had been born in some small village in India, undernourished, and lived in poverty, you would not be playing QB for the NFL. You would be fortunate to work hard and hope to eat and feed your family. Last time I checked, we didn’t have a say on who our mothers and fathers would be. We didn’t have a say on where or when we were born. We didn’t have a say on our DNA make up. We didn’t have a say on how athletic we would be, or how much IQ we would possess. If you have risen to the top of your profession-whether it be mother, athlete, real estate, medicine-hard work obviously played a part. But it only played A part. Your station of life, what you have to work with, plays A part as well. Whether it’s an acceptance speech, or simply a prayer each night before you God to bed, don’t forget the God who grants you the plethora of opportunities that allow your hard work to pay off.