Super Bowl Sunday is fun. The Lawrence Phillips story is sad.
Today is an exciting time for people to get together, eat a lot and stay up late talking about how this day should be a holiday so we didn’t have to work the next morning. But bigger than the game itself, the hype surrounding the commercials and half-time show is the people that make the game happen. The players… This Super Bowl Sunday I want to remember a player who dreamed of playing in the Super Bowl. And that dream never came true.
25 days ago Lawrence Phillips killed himself in a California jail cell while serving a 30 year sentence for a myriad of issues with the law that were not defendable nor okay. Phillips was the very best running back in football in 1994 for the University of Nebraska. His dream was to play in the Super Bowl.
It’s interesting to me the way that we, as a society, enable people that can dribble a ball, tackle other people, and run fast. Even prestigious college and professional coaches, highly respected people, enable kids like Lawrence Phillips. They do everything they can to make sure these superior athletes are “on the field” rather than take the time to do what’s best for the kid over the long term. Whatever happened to teaching and discipline for young 20 year olds from the coaching staff and their mentors? And why does it usually not happen? Well in this particular case, cause he was big and he could run fast. Johnny Manziel isn’t the first or last public fool who has been enabled. There is a long line.
This is why results in sports matter less and less to me as I grow older. I’m more interested in the type of people they are and what else they do. Are they well rounded? Do they care about others? We live in a “win at all costs” society. Is it really that great to root for a team if your players can win but they also beat up women and steal from the elderly? Or cheat on their exams? I’m not that into any of that.
I think about the people that were around Lawrence as a teenager. No one could help him? Did he have a mentor? Was he a really bad kid that no one could reach? Here was a guy that has talent that our society cares immensely about, making horrendous off the field decisions and ruining his future. Where was the guidance? Where was the coaching? Where was the parenting? Why do I have a feeling that everyone was more concerned with getting Lawrence “on the field” rather than mentoring and disciplining him which ultimately led to his demise.
On today’s festive Super Bowl where we toast and applaud the achievements of the great athletes on the field, let us not forget of all that didn’t make it, and the sacrifices of what is perhaps much more important in our short lives than the ability to throw and catch a ball on a field.
I’m rooting for Peyton Manning and thinking about Lawrence Phillips.
Enjoy the game.
P.S. Attached are some accounts of letters Lawrence wrote from prison. Pretty dim stuff, but the truth of what he was going through. Sad. These letters from Lawrence make him sound both introspective and intelligent. Can’t imagine being in his situation, granted he made his own decisions throughout life, however misguided they were. The concept of “get to vs. got to” is quickly amplified after reading through them. After reading his thoughts, I have much appreciation for my circumstances, those that guided and helped me along the way and for life in general.