Collision With Reality
April 6, 2016
Lou Holtz and Bobby Bowden are College Football Hall of Famers, looking back on their sun-and-honey days. But in 1970 Holtz was a fledgling coach at William and Mary. Recorded in Holtz' memory that golden Fall saw him traveling with his team to Morgantown, WV to play the heavily favored Mountaineers, coached by his close friend Bobby Bowden. Lou remembers it as an exciting moment in his young career. He grew up in nearby Liverpool, Ohio and got tickets for everyone he knew including aunts and uncles, friends, and former classmates.
He must have been thrilled when his William and Mary team took the field, but the glow didn't last very long. Before the game, Holtz felt his team was much improved and ready for an upset; at the very least he didn't expect to be embarrassed by Bowden's team. Even though WVU with two NFL-bound running backs scored on its first possession, Holtz was confident his friend wouldn't let the game get out of hand. Said Holtz, "Bobby was a good friend ... he had too much class to leave his team on the field and run up the score."
Holtz' team played their heart out and with a minute left in the game W&M trailed by a respectable 34-7. Then one of West Virginia's big running backs broke away for a touchdown making the final score 41-7. Holtz was humbled in front of his home town fans. On meeting Bowden at midfield after the game, piqued that his friend had run up the score, appealing to their friendship he asked Bowden why he had poured it on. "Bobby, I thought we were friends!"
Bowden's reply in measured Southern tone was classic: "Lou ... it's your job to keep the score down, not mine. You can only coach one football team at a time, and that's yours. You can't coach mine. If you don't want to get beaten badly, get better players, change the schedule, or coach better." It was a cold dose of reality which Holtz never forgot. Simply put, if you have a problem, it's YOUR problem. Solve it. Lou reminds us, "Don't blame other people. Ninety percent of the people you meet don't care about your problems, and the other 10 percent are glad you have them."
Programming radio stations in the imperfect world of Nielsenomics is a lot like coaching; hoping for instant gratification in a world of "what have you done for me lately?" Wins sometimes seem farther apart and their relative sweetness diminished by the Wall Street world within which we work. George Johns recently rejoined, "We'd have been much better off if we hadn't made the accountants sit next to the engineers at the Christmas party."
As you attempt to solve problems this week and feel tempted to play the mental game of "if it weren't for _____," visualize Lou Holtz confronting Bobby Bowden at midfield many autumns ago. You can only coach one team at a time ... and that's yours.