For the Win
About 17 or 18 years ago, my oldest daughter asked, “Momma, what is the Super Bowl?”
Without giving it any thought, I replied “It is the last football game of the season.”
My husband, who was within earshot, stepped into the room and said, “REALLY—the LAST game? What about the CHAMPIONSHIP game?” He continued with a few other comments, but you get the idea. My lack of football cred was showing.
Fast forward to now. For the last decade plus I have been to countless football games watching my own kids dance, cheer or play ball, and attended or watched on television SEC and NFL football games. I have developed an appreciation and a fondness for the game.
Today I wouldn’t describe the Super Bowl as the last game of the season; I get that it’s more than that. However, I have very conflicted feelings and opinions about football. First, as a health professional, a sport that can be so damaging to its participants in the way of concussions, knee injuries and other traumas gives me great pause. Is there a safer way to play a game where the major objective for most players on the field is to tackle one another?
There are many questions that need to be answered. But I feel strongly that, today, we don’t have it right.
Secondly, I believe the negative emotion expressed on social media and elsewhere pertaining to football—taking the game too seriously, taking a knee vs. not taking a knee, winning at all costs—is harmful to the game and hurtful to all of us: the players, the teams, the fans and especially the younger kids “learning how to communicate” in this forum. It’s as if we forget that these players, excluding the pros, are boys (and a few girls) and young men who are students.
So, what does a column about football have to do with my weekly VC Notes message? There are two takeaways I think we can apply to our work.
First, as a group of scientists, educators, health care professionals and support staff, we need to be mindful that our actions are consequential. That we are always “on.” That our interactions with others make a difference.
This last weekend, one of the Ole Miss players demonstrated this idea beautifully. Sean Rawlings, #50, stopped after the game to give a glove to a young fan. The boy’s reaction was priceless. Every action, whether large or small, matters. I have known Sean and his family since he was in three-year kindergarten and know him to be an outstanding young man. I thank Sean, and all the players I didn’t see, for taking a moment of their time to positively impact someone else.
Also, in all the conversation about offensive and defensive football strategy, I think about our UMMC offensive and defensive strategies. In academic medicine and health care, we play a lot of offense and defense, both locally and nationally. The landscape is shifting constantly and the players change. I believe our best defense and our best offense is achieving success in our core missions.
So don’t be distracted by all the changes around us and all the noise that generates. Stay focused. Do what we do and do it well. Strategies and tactics change along the way, but a laser focus on our missions is the path to success for UMMC and A Healthier Mississippi.