Love Thy Opponent

Love thy opponent?

Are you kidding me? I know, it sounds crazy! In the heat of battle I don’t think anyone can really bring themselves to think this way, and yet, it can happen; it does happen. So, what am I talking about? Well, let me tell you a story.

Story Time

I was once sitting around with several guys who I had played college football with and we were reminiscing about our “Glory Days.” It was fun to look back and remember days gone by, but then one of the guys threw down the gauntlet and asked this question…of all of your football memories, from grade school on up, what was your
absolute favorite memory?

Wow! I was fortunate enough to win league championships my Junior and Senior year in high school; there were plenty of great memories from each of those seasons. Then
when I was a Sophomore playing at the University of Buffalo I did have a nice interception against Holy Cross in a game that was televised as the ABC-TV Regional
Game of the Week. That was kind of cool. Then, I have the wonderful memory of a locker room celebration after we closed out an 11-0 season at Ashland College (now
Ashland University, OH) and also the memory of playing in the first-ever All-Ohio Shrine Bowl (1972) at Ohio State University. But, when it came time to tell my story, it was
none of these I would describe.

The date was November 7, 1970. The University Buffalo was playing Boston College. I was a Sophomore Defensive Back playing for UB and while we were having a pretty
miserable year (2-7 at the time), we were pumped to go to Boston and upset the Eagles. Even having the terrible year we were having, if we could somehow rise to the
occasion and knock off Boston College on their home field, it could make our season.

Well, as fate would have it, his Eminence, Richard Cardinal Cushing (1895-1970), an Alumnus of Boston College and a well known priest in the Boston area passed away on November 2nd, just days before our game. A major donor who made Alumni Stadium a possibility and donated funds to numerous other building efforts on the BC campus, his loss would certainly provide plenty of inspiration for the Eagles come game day. In fact, they put a picture of Richard Cardinal Cushing on the cover of the Game Day program for our game that Saturday (yes, THAT is a picture of the actual Game Day Program!).

Game Day brought a picture perfect fall day for early November and the stadium was packed. Bright sunshine and fairly mild temperatures for November in Boston made for perfect playing conditions. While most of the leaves had fallen, there were still some beautiful maples covered in red and gold at the far, open end of the horseshoe shaped stadium. I remember looking at them and thinking to myself, How ironic, even nature is
sporting red and gold today, Boston College’s colors. Maybe God is rooting for them?

I was pretty amped up in warm ups and was excited to be playing in this venue. The natural grass turf was cut short and the field felt fast. I just loved being there to play at Boston College, one of the schools that had contacted me when I was a Junior in high  school. I knew my mom and dad would be listening to the game at home on the radio. It was just a wonderful day to be alive and playing college football. I was jacked up!

Then I noticed it. Where was Boston College? We had been doing our pre-game warm ups for 20 minutes and there was no sign of Boston College’s team on the field. No
place kickers, no punters, no specialists, no one, not even a coach walking the field. That seemed very strange but I just thought, Maybe this is something they normally do?

We came into the locker room after our pre-game warm-up and as usual, guys took their final nervous pees and we broke up into our groups by position for last minute
instructions. Our head coach spoke to us and we headed out of the locker room and out of the tunnel onto the field and over to our bench area. Amongst the 45,000 spectators
were a handful of parents who welcomed us onto the field. And yet, still, no Boston College football players in sight. What was going on?

Then the stadium announcer welcomed people to the game as is customary and asked the crowd to remove their hats for the National Anthem. A lone bugler from the Boston
College Marching Band stood by the flagpole at the one end of the field and played his crisp, clear rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and the crowd remained standing.
Then an elderly priest slowly walked to the center of the field with a microphone in his hand. He asked everyone to bow their heads in prayer. At the conclusion of his prayer,
he took a deep breath and then said, “And may we now share a moment of silence to honor His Eminence, Richard Cardinal Cushing, who passed on November 2nd, “All
Souls Day.” And then it happened.

It was like the world had stopped. It was stunning. The silence that is. There wasn’t a sound to be heard. There were roughly 45,000 people packed into that stadium and
yet, not even a peep was to be heard. There was no sound whatsoever, no distant car horns or airplanes above, just complete, total silence. The silence was almost scary.
And then I heard it….the sound of dry leaves being scraped along the asphalt walkway right behind our bench. I looked behind me to see that a light breeze was pushing
those leaves along the walkway as everything else in that stadium had come to a complete standstill. I don’t think anyone even moved and it wouldn’t surprise me if the
people had even stopped breathing. I had never experienced anything quite like it. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. The almost eerie silence was finally broken
when the priest said, “Amen.”

And then, the world changed.

Out of the tunnel to my right across the field, came about 24 drum line drummers highstepping it and pounding on their drums. The crowd of some 45,000 erupted in a roar
and then the marching band came out of the tunnel and onto the field, also highstepping it. And then in perfect synchronicity, they parted like the Red Sea to make an
alley and began playing the BC Fight Song. The crowd roared even louder and out came the Boston College Golden Eagles! They were literally flying onto the field and I
swear, even their offensive tackles looked faster than our wide receivers! It was an unbelievable experience to witness that moment and yes, I think it was my all-time
favorite football memory.

We played them tough out of the gate and were only losing 7-0 at the end of the 1st Quarter. Then, in the first five minutes of the 2nd quarter, Boston College scored 24
unanswered points in five minutes to go ahead 31-0. It’s hard to give up that many points in five minutes but we managed. We lost in a blood bath, 64-20. But, what did I
learn from that day, from that experience in my life? And why would that be of all of my football memories my favorite football memory? Well, this is why.

I have played and coached in a lot of football games in my life. Some with cross town rivals where I knew almost every player on their team, and some where every player on
the other roster was a complete stranger. And yet, as I have gotten older and reflect more on my past, it dawned on me that on any given Saturday as I looked across the
field, really, all of those players were just like me. They had a mom and dad, maybe sisters and brothers, and they had a love for the game of football, just like me. They
have had good times and bad times, happy times and sad times, but all in all, they were just like me. Best of all, my opponent, that other team, was providing me with an
opportunity to make a memory for a lifetime! Without them, without that opponent, there would be no Game Day. There would be no competition to test me and my teammates.
No marching bands, no cheerleaders, no tailgating parties, no family get-togethers on festive fall Saturdays; literally all of my football memories would be non-existent if it
weren’t for my opponent!

And so, when I put it in those terms, I realize I shouldn’t despise my opponent. If anything, I need to love my opponent! I need to be thankful they are who they are, and
that they had worked hard and prepared and had challenged me on the playing field. For better or for worse, win or lose, I now understand how special those guys were, just
like how special my teammates were.

Maybe it is because I am now 67 and clearly in the autumn of my years, but that is how I see the world of competitive athletics today. I still am active coaching an NCAA
Division III football team and I don’t like losing…at anything! I love to watch teams who fiercely compete with one another, be it in a major college bowl game or rivalry, the
Stanley Cup Playoffs, March Madness, or the Super Bowl, whatever; but when the contest is over and the final outcome is known, how great it is when you do see those
great athletes come together and shake hands, even embrace at times, showing the respect and genuine caring they have for one another. That, my friends, is what athletic
competition is supposed to be all about.

I know it sounds strange but remember, that team on the other side of the field or in the other dugout, whatever, they are the opponent, not the enemy. This isn’t war, it’s an
athletic contest, period. While rivalries are fierce and competition sometimes gets heated, it is always a special moment when the game ends and the two opponents who
fought so valiantly and fiercely on the playing field just moments before can come together showing mutual respect for one another. Having been there, after both wins
and losses, as I look back on it all now, it is indeed a special moment to look your opponent in the eye, shake his (or her) hand and say, “Nice game, you played well.” If
you gave it your absolute best effort, if you left it all on the field and played your heart out, even when feeling the sting of a loss – you can be thankful for the experience of it
all. And, in time, you will see a bigger picture. You will learn what it means to Love Thy Opponent.

ON A DIFFERENT NOTE: For the past several years, the American Football Coaches
Association (AFCA) has come out with a guideline for all football coaches to take all
negative language and terminology such as “Smashmouth Football” out of the game.
I happen to agree with this guideline and believe we need to bring some civility and
better sportsmanship back into athletics, especially at the youth level.

About the author: Harold “Bud” Boughton currently serves as an Assistant
Offensive Line Coach and Team Chaplain with the Franklin
College Football Program. A former senior executive and
sales professional, he is a professional speaker and the
author of three books including his latest book, Coaching is
Teaching at its Best! You can order bud’s books and reach
him through his website at www.budboughton.com.

Play Like It’s the Stanley Cup

Play like its the Stanley CupWhen I first heard these words I was all of 11 years-old. I was playing youth hockey and it was my first year playing. Back then (1962) we played on outside rinks in Kenmore, NY, a suburb of Buffalo. The temperature often hovered in the single digits at our games and when it would snow they’d have to shovel the ice between periods. My dad, Canadian by birth but a naturalized U.S. citizen would often say, “You’re not a real hockey player unless you can back check into a 30 mph wind!” That wasn’t all he said. Whenever he dropped me off at the rink for practice, he’d grab my arm to get my attention and as my eyes met his, he’d say the same thing every time…”Play like it’s the Stanley Cup!”

That was some 50+ years ago. Now, at age 66, I am still ‘lacing ‘em up’ and playing hockey with a bunch of aging men. Every time I take those first three or four strides on the ice and feel that rush of cold air on my face, I’m 11 years-old all over again. I cannot describe the feeling, how special I feel to still be out there playing a game I love. Maybe the only thing I enjoy more than playing the game is watching Stanley Cup hockey once the playoffs begin.

Every year brings new excitement in Stanley Cup play. Overtime games, game sevens to decide series’ winners, hard-hitting checks, great goaltending, the occasional fight, and of course, when each series ends, the traditional lineup and handshake by two teams that for 7-10 days were basically trying to hammer each other into oblivion. Bloodied, bruised, they line up, look each other in the eye, exchange messages of respect to one another, and shake hands, in some cases, even exchange brief embraces. It is a classic moment in all of sport and one that shows the ultimate respect that professional athletes (hockey players, at least) have for one another. There is nothing else quite like Stanley Cup hockey in professional sports.

When my dad died in 1984, there were many people who came by the funeral home in Buffalo to pay their respects. One of those people was a little guy in a brown leather jacket who showed up by himself. Salt and pepper uncombed hair, unshaven face, by appearance I could tell he was mid to late 60’s and maybe he was all of 5’5” tall or as one might say, vertically challenged. He went up to the casket, paid his respects and as he turned to walk away I saw him wipe a tear from his cheek. Not knowing who this guy was, I approached him and introduced myself, explaining that I was my dad’s middle of three sons.

With a sheepish grin on his face, he gave me a little hug and said, “Oh, so you’re Buddy. I used to play hockey with your dad at South Park High School.” As soon as he said that, I knew who he was.

“You must be ‘Shorty’ Minor” I said in an excited voice and he raised his eyebrows in amazement.

“You actually know who I am?” he inquired.

“Absolutely!” I said. “My dad used to tell me stories about ‘Shorty’ Minor, this scrappy Right Winger and how in the game against Bennett High School you checked a guy right over the boards into the Bennett bench!”

He looked down at his shuffling feet, grinning, shaking his head. He obviously appreciated that someone, some kid who was some 30 years younger than him, actually knew who he was and about his exploits as a high school hockey player. He smiled at me and said, “You know, your dad was quite a hockey player and more than that, he was our leader. He wore the “C” you know; he inspired us.”

I just nodded my head because that’s how I had always thought of my dad. And then Shorty said something to me I’ll never forget. He looked at me and said, “You know what I will always remember about your dad, Buddy? Whenever we got ready to go out of the locker room and take the ice, he’d say the same thing to us. He’d say, ‘Boys, let’s play like it’s the Stanley Cup!” As he spoke the words, his lips quivered for a moment. He wiped a tear from his cheek and then he said to me, “I loved your dad.”

Not very often men of that generation spoke those words about their true feelings. That moment was a very special for me; one of those indescribable life moments that you just always remember and carry with you in your heart. I will never forget the moment, ‘Shorty’ Minor, or of course, my dad.

“Play like it’s the Stanley Cup” may be an expression that comes from the game of hockey, but in reality, it is its own philosophy of life. To live your life as though you are playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is to make the very most of your God-given gifts and live life to the very fullest. No wasted shifts, no regrets, no holding back, just taking the ice and being thankful you even have the opportunity to play the game and be in it 110%.

The life we live is just that…one life. There are no dress rehearsals and once a shift ends, there is no taking it back or ‘do overs.’ You just live the moment and make the very most of every experience. So, whether you’re a high school hockey player sharing the inspiration of those special words in the locker room with your teammates or a loving father sharing them as a life lesson with your son, the message will always ring true…”Play like it’s the Stanley Cup.”

Leadership 2.0–It Isn’t What You Think It Is

We’ve all read them. Books, articles and blogs on leadership, all espousing what it really takes to be a leader in today’s hectic, fast-paced world. In these challenging times of non-stop innovation and advancing technology, however, the articles I read on leadership seem much the same. Each is filled with many of the same adjectives and characteristics that we have used to define leadership for the past 30+ years. This is probably because we continue to define leadership in the same way.

The model hasn’t changed. Hear the word “leadership”, and we see the same thing; a man or woman standing on a pedestal and people crowded around listening to his/her every word for explicit instructions about what we are to do next. The leader is defined with the same characteristics –bold, courageous, decisive, a take action/take charge person, positive but driven and demanding. He’s the quarterback, the all-knowing Peyton Manning or Tom Brady individual who personifies the organization and its success. And so, we continue down a path defining leadership in the new millennium just as we did in the 1970’s and 80’s, using the same model and adjectives to describe a leadership model we used years ago. What are we thinking?

Our world today is vastly different from what it was even 17 years ago at the turn of the century and the model for leadership in today’s world of technology-driven madness and instant self-gratification needs to be different as well. If there is such a thing as Leadership 2.0 – I would contend it isn’t what you think it is. Successful leaders in today’s world, those who choose to practice Leadership 2.0 as I have termed it, will see their role as a leader defined by very different characteristics and principles.

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E+R=O Just Got Better

In my latest book, Coaching is Teaching at its Best! I made mention in Tip #5 (Go to Practice with the Right Attitude) of a unique philosophy of life that is expressed as an alphabetical formula.  E + R = O represents a philosophy that can be applied to virtually every aspect of one’s life. The credit for this philosophy actually goes to Jack Canfield, a California-based, motivational speaker who is also the author of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Simply put, this philosophy is meant to teach the importance of attitude (how we respond to events in our lives) in order to impact those outcomes.

The formula reads, E + R = O with the “E” standing for Events. Throughout our lives, each of us is impacted by certain events, some good and some not good. In fact, some may be absolutely horrific.  While we may bring some of these events onto ourselves due to poor choices or irresponsible actions we may have taken, in many cases these events are totally outside of our control. They are just things that happen to us in life. The “R” stands for Response.  When those events do occur in our life, while we cannot change the actual event, we do control how we respond to it. How we respond to those events is totally up to us and how we respond will largely determine the “O”, the outcome or end result.

So, if you are looking for a positive outcome, then it makes sense that you need to have a positive response to the event. Unfortunately, many of us seem to think the “R” stands for react and this, in most cases leads to a negative outcome. A response, while guided by well-grounded thought and logic, is far different from an instinctive reaction. But, in today’s hectic, fast-paced world of non-stop, 24/7, self-serving technology and instant gratification, how do we remind ourselves to slow down, to hit the pause button and take that deep breath to help us find that positive response that will ensure a positive outcome?

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Business and Closing out the year…

If the holidays are not hectic enough with gift giving, holiday gatherings, relatives visiting and the like, maybe your like many people and work for a publicly traded company.  Well now, let’s just add to the end of year fun!  It can be absolutely crazy trying to close business right up until December 31st and yet, understandably, it is what is expected. After all, it’s all about shareholder value, right? I mean it is what it is.  I did however, read something just the other day that put it all in perspective. The piece was simply entitled, “Family” and it read as follows….

Are you aware that if we died tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days, but the family we left behind would feel the loss for the rest of their lives?

And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into our work than into our family; an unwise investment indeed, don’t you think?

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Playing Golf with the Dead

I’m not much of a golfer. Never have been. Being a former football and hockey player, games that involve tempo and concentration over quick reaction and physical contact have never been my forte.  So, I pretty much suck at golf and darts. But, with the sun shining brightly and the temperature nearing 80 on a Thursday afternoon, I felt a calling.  I think I’ll go play golf. 

I drove to a little Par 3 course near my home called Walnut Ridge. I nice little course, it plays fast being only 4,860 yards (Par 54).  I paid for 18 holes and a cart with a twenty dollar bill and got change back.  Nice.  Now I’m thinking, hey, maybe I should come out to play here more often?  It was 4:15 PM and standing on the first tee box I looked across the flat landscape and realized I was the only one on the entire course.  I literally was going to be all alone on the golf course.  Then it hit me; play two balls, one for you and one for Dad.

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A Time to Text and a Time to Pray

One does not have to be a biblical scholar to know the scripture. 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.   
                                          Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

We’ve heard this scripture read at funerals, at weddings and confirmations. The Birds even used these words to create a rock hit back in the late 60’s. If Soloman had been writing the book of Ecclesiastes in today’s world, maybe he would have added… there is a time to text, and a time to pray.

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Goldman Sachs and the Loss of Leadership

Over the course of my career, I have worked for Fortune 200 companies as well as much smaller, more entrepreneurial firms.  I have enjoyed good success and also experienced failure.  I have made 100% Clubs, received various awards for a job well done and have been fairly rewarded financially for my efforts.  I also have been laid off and fired.  I have lived both sides of the coin. 

Ironically, as I look back on my experiences in business and intercollegiate athletics, I have learned much about leadership and performance improvement.  While the latter is still elusive for many companies (most companies are terrible at developing their people), the former, leadership, is pitiful if not non-existent in some. The issue of leadership, or should I say lack of leadership, was recently brought to light in Greg Smith’s op-ed piece in The New York Times entitled, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” (you can read the article at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me). The letter was published on the very day Mr. Smith resigned from the firm. 

Business, it never ceases to amaze me

Could it be…a company that has been in business for 17 years and has never made a profit?  No, it gets even better. Imagine this same company executing a successful IPO in just the last 90 days. Impossible you say…think again.

Such is the story of Angie’s List, an Indianapolis-based company. Angie’s List is a ‘business review’ company that allows individuals to post reviews of businesses they have used and then people who sign up with Angie’s List as members can use these reviews to evaluate various companies (from plumbers to pediatricians) before making their own choice for the particular service. A great business model, but heaven help me…how does anyone continue to stay in business for 17 years and NOT make a profit?  Please CLICK HERE to read the entire blog post

Thank You Expert Access Radio – You made me think…

Today I did a taped interview for Expert Access Radio, a radio broadcast that will air this Sunday, February 19th at 4 PM on 55KRC out of Cincinnati, Ohio (go to www.55krc.com).  The interview was in regard to the re-release of my first book, The Missing Piece – Our Search for Security in an Insecure World. The co-hosts, Steve Kayser and Jay McKeever, were really good guys to work with. They were fun, had a lot of energy and they asked some really great questions. In fact, they made me…THINK.

Whenever I prepare for a radio/TV interview or public appearance regarding one of my books, I always go back through the book to re-familiarize myself with some of the material I have written. Ultimately, the The Missing Piece is a book about hope and it reminds us that there is always the possibility that tomorrow can be just a little bit better than today. The book is filled with real-life examples of the many challenges we face, the priorities we set for ourselves, and the choices we make as we seek some sense of security in our life.  In the end, I talk about finding something far more valuable than security, something I refer to as the other missing peace.Please CLICK HERE to read the entire blog post