The headline is a quote that comes from Russell Wilson -- given to him by his father -- and is the key element to Wilson's structure in his attitude, his approach to work, and his self-confidence that sometimes borders on bravado.
It's such a small statement, but it stood out to me. I'll be honest, of all the Wilsonisms -- from "The separation is in the preparation," to the punctuation of "Go Hawks" to conclude an interview -- this one quote stood out as absurd.
Like, "Who would be afraid to be successful?"
Over the last year, since I began the process in my own life of trying to get a personal project funded and off the ground, this quote above all others began to stick with me. My mind eventually decoded the message Russell's dad Harrison had carefully crafted to help his son's development and strength for the journey he would take.
Conquering the fear of failure. This is what that statement means.
Russell Wilson has become an example and a hero to millions of fans and the 12's alike. While his contemporaries like Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton struggle in defeat, Russell Wilson comes out of each contest with a drive to be better, or just the drive for the next contest.
Kaepernick's entire destiny changed on one play. A play he defended for an entire offseason in the media and then challenged that "In the same situation he'd do it just a little bit differently and this time he'd win," and Richard Sherman would be the goat.
He was consumed by the result of the play. The failure, the pain, so much so that he stayed stationary as the division and the Seahawks, and then his own teammates passed him by. In my opinion this result alone is probably why ownership fired Jim Harbaugh. The decision to put the franchise in the hands of this kid was a spark, but in the end it showed something that we see all too often now.
The conclusion of this year's Super Bowl was a shock to most fans, who thought once again defense wasn't enough to win. Cam Newton slowly withered and by end of the 3rd quarter, whatever will and bravado that he had, was smacked out of him. There was a point where you could tell he had had enough of the pain and just stopped trying. The fumble where he later says "I thought my knee was at a weird angle and I was gonna get hurt" was only the punctuation on the story of Cam Newton's Super Bowl appearance.
As he sulked on the sideline and things fully unravelled in the press conference, he became the prime candidate for my frustrations. I love Cam, I'm not bothered by his celebrations on touchdowns. I hate his first down ones, but that's just because I feel like in that situation he should push the pace with his offense. However, the end of the big game and press conference was proof to me that Cam is "afraid to excel." He doesn't see failure as an opportunity to grow and get better. He sees it as something to fear and excuse and spread around.
Cam is a representation of the symptom of fear of failure. This generation, my generation is rife with it. We insulate ourselves from it, we excuse it, we hide from it when confronted. I was overwhelmed with this realization as Cam Newton started representing all the things that I had seen and been through in the last year.
In this article from last year, where I announced I would no longer work as a part time weekly contributor to Field Gulls, I talked about what it was like to originally step into a role here. I was terrified. I was absolutely afraid to put my name to anything that would suffer true public scrutiny, but in the end I agreed and it was the best decision I ever made. It didn't make me fearless, as poor Danny Kelly can tell you, but it did allow me to gain self confidence and a desire to pursue a dream no matter the potential drawbacks.
I don't want to promote my project -- that's not what this piece is about. It will suffice to say as I began promoting and inviting people to participate in it with me, several people would start out excited and pumped and jacked about doing really cool things, but when it came time to be called on the floor their fear would get the better of them.
"What if I suck?" "I don't think I'm any good."
Fear of failure, fear of commitment, fear of rejection. They wouldn't even give themselves the chance to excel. Countless times this would happen and it's driven me crazy for months. And of course, sports wound up being no refuge from the frustrations I was dealing with.
Failure is part of the process of success and somewhere along the way we've stopped believing that and it's harmed us in real and meaningful ways. I didn't want to post this article as a drool fest to Russell Wilson and how great he is. Nothing got on my nerves faster than Twitter telling me:
"I'm really glad we have Russell Wilson instead of Cam."
Instead of lashing out though, I got introspective and looked at Russell through my own personal prism of knowledge. Why is it he never seems to falter when the team is down? Why did a one yard pass in the Super Bowl make Russell say "That pass won't define me" where a tough pass in an NFC championship destroyed another quarterback? Why can Russell Wilson put two interceptions behind him and nearly lead a comeback flawlessly even down 31 points? Why?
Because he isn't afraid to excel. So why are you?