All-Twain Team MVP

Evening, gang. and welcome to countdown Day 25.

Tonight, I’m ‘gonna go off the board a bit and shake things up some. Nothing too crazy, mind you, but I think it’s high time I recognized someone from my past. And even though it’d be a lie to say his influence on me had much of anything to do with the number 25, I hope you guys will allow me a mulligan on this one. (And please trust me; for this guy, I know you’ll make the exception.)

So, due respect to the late, great John Madden, long before Madden picked the inaugural All-Madden team all the way back in 1984, there was Mark Twain. Yeah, Mark Twain, who espoused adaptability, toughness and loyalty at every turn, bringing us the likes of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Tom Canty and others.

Along with that, he provided us with sayings and watchwords that will surely hold up until long after our grandchildren’s grandchildren arrive on the scene.

I guess that’s the deal with the “timeless” stuff, and that’s why it’s so important to
all of us.

A QUICK NOTE: To be fair, and for the sake of historical accuracy, some of the sayings attributed to Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens) are sometimes called into question. For example, a favorite of mine – and maybe some of yours, too – has to do with a particular dog in a fight. Call me old school, but I’ll always attribute it to Twain. And if you believe that a person’s heart and will just can’t be measured, maybe it really is the size of the fight in the dog that makes all the difference. That said, it probably doesn’t matter who gets credit for first saying or writing it. It’s what the words mean that counts.

So, back to that guy I was telling you about. (And friendly warning: I’m not going to tell you his full name. He’d never want to be singled out or recognized for simply
being himself.)

The summer I turned 17 years old I began coaching kids in a variety of sports, everything from baseball to soccer to track and field and even ultimate frisbee. It was a great way to learn how to motivate people and help them find confidence and work towards goals. In short, it was a good way to see if you were – or could become – a leader.

That summer, though, I didn’t realize that I would be the one doing all the learning.

At first blush, you might not have pegged this guy as the second coming of Bill Ring or Dustin Pedroia or even Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger. (Yep, all those dudes are undersized, lion-hearted types with plenty to prove.)

In truth, he just seemed like a solid kid who you knew would always do his best. I guess that’s the thing about expectations, isn’t it? If you manage them properly, you can avoid disappointment and keep your perspective. Or, you can just watch and learn and see what happens.

It took me and some of the other coaches all of five minutes to realize what we had. Sure, he was a solid athlete, with some natural skills, but now more than 40 years in the rearview, I’m reminded that no matter what people tell you – no matter how much they insist that when the dust clears, it’s always talent above all else – the end game is determined by who wants it more.

And every time, and in every sport this man (then, just a 14-year old kid) ever played, he always wanted it a little more. He’d slide and scrape and hurl himself up and down every field, court and lane on a track. He’d do that, and then he’d just do it again.
And again.

And when he was done, he’d rally others. If running was involved (especially for distance) he’d finish up and would always be the first guy cheering. Always. He’d stand there windmilling his arms, screaming his lungs out and willing everyone else on. Making sure they stayed in the moment. Making sure they found their stride. Making sure that they didn’t give up.

This kid didn’t even really need a coach. What do I mean? How about this?…
Just a few weeks into the summer, he’d stepped wrong in a soccer game and twisted himself around a bit. No big deal, right?

The thing is, though, he’d actually fractured his foot on the play and didn’t think to tell anyone. Yeah, that happened before he scored two goals and assisted on a third. As always, hurling and wriggling and out hustling everyone else on the field.

Not the size of the dog in the fight, huh? You bet your ass.

So, while I won’t embarrass you and divulge your full name here, I need to tell you this: I learned more from you in one summer than I ever learned in any coaching clinic or motivational session or from some leadership-building workshop in a breakout room at a trade show or convention hall.

I haven’t seen you in more than four decades, man, but somehow I know that your particular brand of reckless abandon just isn’t the norm anymore. That’s why I sincerely hope that your indefatigable persona, big heart and wonderful cast iron skull has helped you obtain all that you have wanted from life right up to this very moment.

I can tell you that the example you always set has more than made the difference for me and my family.

Glad I know you, Charlie.

Make it a good night, gang.

Until tomorrow,









Scroll to Top