Pep Reality — September 29, 2011



  • Thundering applause.
  • Stomping feet.
  • A marching band playing off-tune versions of Sousa‘s dream tunes.
  • And a coach, preaching the gospel of victory to raucous response.
  • A pep rally. It is a phenomenal place to be. I played football for a short season in my life and I have stood in gymnasiums and listened to the student body scream their approval as the leader of our team proclaimed the power of our punch.

Here’s the problem. No game was ever decided on the quality of the pep rally. No one ever won a championship by screaming the loudest in an auditorium. The game is won on the field.

It is the problem in this country–we are a nation of people addicted to the pep rally. We do it in politics, we do it with corporations and we do it in religion.

In politics it shows up as the obsession we have over the process of voting, campaigning and electing a leader. In corporations, it’s the sheer, brute force of clever and seductive advertising to enhance the visual presence of the product without having to deal with its actual limitations. And in religion, it’s getting everybody “saved” and on their way to heaven in a worshipful way without ever really preparing them for the rest of the life they will spend on earth.

I will tell you as a football player–after the pep rally is done there are three things that remain.  The success or failure of the campaign lies in how each player deals with these three eventualities.

1.  Can you take a hit? The biggest shock to me when I went out for the football team was the startling impact that happens in the body, soul and mind the first time you are struck by another person and thrown to the ground. It is your instinct to want to stay down there for a while, never get up–or rise quickly and run away from the pain as quickly as possible. No, you have to develop the realization that a hit is coming, often from where you least expect it–and you must condition yourself to be ready to receive the punishment. Most people fail because they can’t take a hit. They either discuss how unfair life is, how difficult things are or how they wish things were better–and in the time they take commiserating over these issues, they lose valuable moments when the game is played and won.

I could always tell whether I was going to win my campaign against an opponent. After the first play, if I dominated him and he fell back and I noticed that he was intimidated by my presence, I knew I owned him the rest of the night.

We have created a generation of Americans who are accustomed to a tradition of winning, although they, themselves, have never been part of the victory and are quite perplexed about why the nation is experiencing such defeat at this point.

We can’t take a hit. So it’s very easy to intimidate us and relegate us to a status of being a pending loser.

2. What do you do when you fumble? It’s a ball, folks. It’s shaped oddly.  You are GOING to fumble. We spend too much time worrying about why things happened the way they did instead of correcting them and moving on. The team that learns how to fumble, survives it, gets the ball back and tries not to fumble again is always the team that wins. Any team that fumbles and throws a fit, pouting about it, will not only fail to get the ball back but if they do, they will be psychologically damaged and repeat the error, fumbling again.

3.  And finally, what are you going to do when you get tired? America starts OUT its day believing it is exhausted.  How is anyone going to put in a decent day’s effort if they start out the morning acting like they’re not going to make it? Any person in sports will tell you that games are won in the fourth quarter.  The best-conditioned, most determined and mentally alert team will always wear down the opponent, create mistakes and take the day.

These are the three things that determine the outcome of any conflict. In politics, our leaders cannot take a hit, nor do they know what to do when they fumble an issue, and they spend all their time complaining about how tiresome the whole procedure is.  Losers.

Corporations can’t take a hit because they are afraid of competition and try to eliminate anyone who comes up with a better mousetrap. They cover up their errors instead of correcting them and they continue to offer boring and often useless choices to the American public instead of innovative and creative ones.

In religion, we do not prepare people for the world’s tribulation–the hit. We do not teach our congregations how to experience a set-back without wading in a pool of disappointment. And we have the religious folks so heavenly minded that they’ve grown tired of earth and have ceased to be the “more-than-conquerors” that the Bible says they were meant to be.

The Pep Reality is that advertising, preaching, shouting, exhorting and praising do not win games.  It is he who can take a hit, survive the fumble and overcome fatigue who will stand at the end of the contest, proudly holding the game ball.

Pep Reality.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can skip steps–because you may be saved by grace, but heaven doesn’t come if you’re no earthly good.

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