Monday, November 29, 2010

Kyle Brotzman, Steve Johnson and Failure

Two instances over the weekend of epic failure:

*Friday night, Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman went through, arguably, the biggest failure in the history of college football: He missed the relatively simple game-winning kick (following a Play-of-the-Year-this-must-be-fated Hail Mary) that would have won the game and secured Boise State not just its undefeated season, but perhaps the kind of mojo to have given it a chance with voters. Then, adding insult to injury, he missed another relatively simple kick that would have given Boise 3 points to start overtime; Nevada promptly kicked a FG to win -- Boise's undefeated season was over.

I imagine Brotzman is inconsolable. Hopefully, he has some level of family, friends or faith that can help him deal with what will likely be a lifelong regret of unmeasurable proportions. What was phenomenal to see was that Facebook page that sprang up among Boise fans -- and frankly non-Boise fans, too -- to support Brotzman. Stuff happens. Sometimes it is epic. Sometimes it seems REALLY bad. Relative to college football, it might be. Relative to everything else in the world, to say it "hardly qualifies" is, itself, qualifying it as too big of a deal. All the folks who liked the Facebook page get that.

*Then yesterday, Bills WR Steve Johnson missed an easy TD catch -- considering he is a near-elite professional WR, a lot easier than Brotzman's FG attempt -- that cost the hard-luck Bills a win over the conference powerhouse Steelers. Johnson was inconsolable, in a far more public way. He took to Twitter with what was arguably the Tweet of the Year in sports (perhaps nudging out Simmons' "moss vikings" tweet). Here it is, in all its all-CAPS glory:
There is almost too much to unpack here, nearly Talmudic in its density: The direct address to God, through Twitter. The all-caps. The exclamation points. The utterly existential question ("HOW???!!!") that could launch a thousand sermons next Sunday. The threat... then the kicker: Not just "Thanks," but the casual, Tweet-shortened "THX."

Johnson did not post to Twitter actually thinking it was a line to God; he posted to Twitter because it was the most public way he knew to express the overwhelming emotions he felt following the game. He could share with everyone how he was feeling -- how conflicted he felt, not just about his actions, but about his faith. I don't see him as "blaming" God for the missed catch, as some have said. I see it as much bigger: Johnson questioning, if not even within the brevity of 140 characters, his own faith. That's some heady stuff.

In its own way, it is one of the most profound statements ever uttered by an athlete.


Two examples: In Brotzman's case, the community of fans is rallying, through Facebook, to support him. In Johnson's case, the individual is taking to a platform reaching tens of millions to try to create his own support. It is fascinating.

Failure happens. It happens in these epic ways (epic, relative to sports). In launching my own company, I am entirely aware of the chance -- even statistical probability -- of failure. I have such a different perspective on it than I did, say, when the Quickie launched 8 years ago; in this case, it is unlikely I will feel a sense of failure, even if the company doesn't succeed. ("You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," and all those "hang-in-there"-kitten-on-ledge posters.)

But, these days, I have an acute antennae for failure and appreciation for those who fail. And I found Brotzman and Johnson's failures -- and, more, the reaction to those failures -- to be remarkable.

If you want to keep up with my successes and failures in the new company, please "like" the Facebook page if you are on Facebook and/or follow the Twitter feed.

-- D.S.

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