Most of what’s written or said relating sports to the real world is preachy, full of platitudes. Though it’s 100 percent accurate and applicable to draw parallels between the games we play and the life skills we use in work environments and relationships, those statements are usually made from the jock level. They contain clichés like “the game of life,” stated in dramatic fashion, as if the speaker believes he’s come up something profound and fresh. Yawn …
What speaks loudest these days, in an era when everyone can live in a fantasy world and create any persona he or she wants, is what people do, not what they say. Or Tweet. Or post.
That’s why we’re so impressed with Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts. After guiding the Tide to a national championship and then to another championship game, he was pulled in the second half of last season’s title game and replaced with then-freshman phenom Tua Tagovailoa. It was a gutsy move by coach Nick Saban and, as it turned out, the right decision.
But what was even gutsier was Hurts, with his credentials, staying at Alabama instead of transferring to just about any program in the country, where he would be The Man. It was the ultimate selfless move, and its stands out even more in the “look at me” and “me first” world of sports.
By staying, he was a sort of insurance policy for his teammates, making sure that there was an experienced signal-caller who could answer the call if the starter went down.
And in storybook fashion, that’s what happened on Saturday, when Bama was trailing Georgia in the SEC championship game. Tagovailoa was injured, Hurts stepped in and scored the winning touchdown. It was one of those chill-bump-worthy moments that reminds us of why we watch sports and why they are meaningful.
It’s been said that playing quarterback is the toughest and most important job in team sports. We were all reminded of that this weekend, when youth and inexperience at the position was evident for both of our local teams that made it to state championship games. There’s no substitute for putting in the time in games, especially those in which the stakes are so high.
All great athletes have a certain amount of ego and pride — they have to — so going from the biggest stage in collegiate sports to holding a clipboard on the sidelines couldn’t have been easy for Hurts. But he did it. He kept working in practice, preparing for the day his number was called, just so all of his teammates’ efforts could be rewarded, too. He took on that responsibility without pouting or publicly calling out his coach or successor. He just prepared and delivered.
There’s a lesson there for every player and for parents who believe they’re little stars are prodigies.
Tagovailoa is the favorite to win the Heisman this year. But Hurts will forever be a hero at Alabama and for coaches/bosses who need an example of how teammates/co-workers should handle adversity.