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Jackson need not apologize for speaking out truthfully
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Sep. 21 2007
Leadership comes in many forms. It can be as subtle as a look, as complicated
as a plan, as forceful as a sermon or as compelling as the cult of personality.
In the simulated battlefield environment of pro football, leadership is most
often identified in emotional men who rage wonderfully in the heat of battle.
There is no place on the football field for anyone who cringes or panics in
their athletic wars. So it strikes me a little odd that anyone would demand or
quietly coax an apology from Rams running back Steven Jackson for baring his
dissatisfaction with another fourth-quarter meltdown by his team in last
Sunday's 17-16 loss to the San Francisco *****.
I would never undercut the passion that Jackson shows on the field. I would
never suggest for a second that he turn down his competitive fire even one
notch. I would never discourage the intensity he carries in his gut and the
will to win that he displays every time he steps on the field. In fact, I would
stoke it so all his positive emotion spreads to some of his underachieving and
A year ago, quarterback Marc Bulger ripped into unnamed underachieving
teammates, and he was hailed as a team leader. He exposed some unvarnished,
inconvenient truths about the passion and commitment of some of his teammates,
and Bulger was not convinced to tone down, smooth over or distill his outrage.
There was no polite backtracking, and there never should have been. It was the
last thing that struggling team needed at the time, and it's the last thing the
Rams need now as they try to break out of this mistake-filled 0-2 start to the
2007 regular season. Nearly 10 months ago, Bulger was trying to rattle a few
cages and deliver a message that there were more than a few young, gifted and
underachieving athletes on this squad who must learn, as Bulger put it, the
difference between being a professional and being on scholarship.
And here we are with another Rams team struggling to get its act together and
another team leader expressing his outrage over the way things are going.
That's what leaders are supposed to do, and he has no reason to apologize.
Instead of questioning him, the folks at Rams Park ought to listen carefully to
Jackson, mimick his desire and share his hatred of losing these close and
winnable ball games.
It has been a long time since the Rams have had such an athlete like Jackson, a
rising star who wants to race full speed into the burning spotlight and take on
all the joys and burdens of stardom: high performance, visibility, high
character, role model and team leader.
I don't want to see him discouraged from fulfilling any of those roles. He was
mad as hell Sunday, and I don't blame him. He is not the first star player to
scream and shout on the sideline or in the huddle and demand that everyone
elevate their games up to a high level.
Dan Marino was a nasty sucker who made few friends in the huddle. Michael Irvin
cussed and fussed and demanded the ball. Lawrence Taylor often threatened to
whip someone's butt if he failed to play hard enough. Dan Fouts and Kellen
Winslow probably came close to blows about a million times over the course of
their brilliant careers.
I have eavesdropped on enough sideline rants over the past 30 years to know
that what Jackson did last Sunday wasn't a unique instance. But it clearly was
a refreshing one.
The Rams are not as bad as their 0-2 record indicates. But like most
middle-of-the-pack NFL teams, their margin between success and failure is a
narrow one. Some things they can't control, like injuries. But the things they
can control — effort, preparation, intensity — those things can't fall short if
this team is going to become a contending franchise again.
Jackson knows that and had the courage to express that to some teammates who
are serial offenders of the sort of self-destructive behavior that can wreck a
season before it even starts. A year ago, Bulger saw that there were far too
many knuckleheads in that locker room who weren't taking their craft serious
enough and he justifiably said something about it.
Now it's Steven Jackson who is opening his mouth. He shouldn't have to
apologize for expressing the truth. He should be thanked.
Re: Jackson need not apologize for speaking out truthfully
Okay, I take the bait and rise to the red flag................
To me, leadership quite often has very little to do with the truth. More often than not you are asking people to perform in the face of accepted evidence and overwhelming odds. To do so you don't lie as such, but you do emphasise a differing portion of what could be accepted as the truth and in doing so ask them to excel, to accentuate the positive and denigrate the negative.
We've all done it and accepted it as a necessary dynamic involved in running a team effort.
What matters to me is HOW you do it.
Shouting and screaming on the sidelines just doesn't get it done. Behind closed doors in the sanctity of the locker room is one thing, very publicly on the sidelines in front of network television is another. Having been a player who was prone to vent on the sidelines, I realised somewhat belatedly, that what I was convinced was passion was in fact, self interest. In losing composure you convince yourself that no-one but yourself cares enough or has enough ability to resolve the situation, when in-fact, the opposite is ordinarily true.
What you cannot convince yourself of , in my opinion is that the situation somehow negates the requirement for mutual respect and teamwork. That somehow one person through volume alone can resolve a situation. Oft-times all that you can see as a result of such an approach is resentment.
That, we don't need.
I'm convinced that Steven recognised this and acted accordingly.
Leadership is much more than noise.
The best leadership he could show right now is a big second effort in every tackle and a game that we all know he's capable of.
He is the kind of player who could lead with his mouth taped up. He's that good.
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