Sometimes THE MAN is a good guy

Yesterday I read a comment from Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona. I happen to enjoy Maradona and his various antics and admittedly outrageous comments. That being said, I would never present him as a deep thinker, philosopher or even a particularly well balanced personality. In fact, Maradona is one of the most flamboyantly out of balance personalities in sports. Its what makes him ‘Maradona’.

It also serves as a wonderful example of why his comment is so profound. And I think it transcends soccer and sports.

If you haven’t been following along for the last 30  or so years, in 1986 Diego Maradona won the World Cup for Argentina. I say HE won it, because HE did. Just ask him. He said he would. He told everyone who would listen, and everyone within earshot that he would. He taunted. He boasted. He flat out challenged. And he went out and delivered the goods. In return, he became a ‘one name superstar’ worldwide and a deified living legend in Argentina. He also gained the unimaginable access to excess superstardom entails, and a seemingly endless fountain of forgiveness and second chances for enjoying them.

Maradona became the coach of the Argentine National Soccer Team for the 2010 World Cup by essentially proclaiming that he was the only choice to return them to their rightful place in the Football world. Honestly, based on the enduring memory of his playing career, Argentina had no choice but to believe him.

He strutted into the tournament with a team of stars, including the reigning world player of the year Leo Messi. The bluster and bravado was back. Maradona was the most recognizable and interesting figure in the worlds largest event. After flashes of brilliance, and stretches of bored mediocrity, Argentina was bounced from the world cup in the quarterfinal.

Asked afterward why his superstars had joined so many other big names under performing in the tournament, he responded:

“Today the players are more collective, more team players. They want to do everything with their teammates. It is a different type of game right now…Maybe before it was about being selfish players who [made the] rest of the team work for us.”

He doesn’t mean “You guys suck, I’m the man, service me!” He means, in every arena, or situation there is ‘The Man’ and there are players. Players are needed. Players are valuable. But, The Man is who pushes things. The Man breaks shit and reforms it into something no player ever saw coming. That’s why he’s The Man.

The soccer implications are easy to see. Its true in every sport. Offense or Defense. Conservative or explosive. Sooner or later, every team that does something has The Man step up and take command. Bret Favre, Ray Lewis, Maradona, Roger Clemens, Michael Jordan, OJ. No matter how disfunctional they may be in any, or every, other aspect of their lives, in their arena they demand precedence. They will not be denied by opponents or teammates. They change how their team plays, how others play them, and ultimately how games are played for years to come.

The same concept works outside of sports. Jobs at Apple. Gates at Microsoft. Walton at Walmart. Buffett. Madonna. Einstein. The List is literally endless, timeless, and inspirational.

They all stood on the work, research, ideas, performances, or whatever contributions of those who came before them and they all relied on the efforts of those surrounding them. But, what makes them special is, they took those parts and applied them differently. They took the same stuff everyone had access to, and they created genius where everyone else created average.

THATS THEIR JOB. To continue the soccer metaphor, some people are soccer players, some are meant to be professional soccer players, some are soccer superstars. Only one is Maradona. He isn’t being an asshat. He isn’t even a bad teammate. He may not be a good friend, I have no clue if he is or isn’t. But, his job on a soccer field is to be ‘Maradona’. And your job is to help Maradona be ‘Maradona’.

I deeply disagree with lots of things Steve Jobs does at Apple. But, know what? it doesn’t make a single shred of difference to him. Neither does the cacophony of other people who think he is wrong. He’s busy being The Man, changing industries, making billions for himself and his teammates. He’s doing his job. And, honestly, he’s right to do it.

Just because you are The Man in an arena doesn’t mean you can perform every phase of that arena. Maradona is physically a small man. Quick and fast, but he just isnt big. Odds are, he would be a terrible goaltender. Steve Jobs is an idea guy. As an accountant, I imagine he COULD figure it out. but thats not his job. Einstein is perhaps the ultimate idea man, big thinker. Personal Hygiene was apparently a challenge at times. OJ was a phenomenal football player, less so an actor, and a world class horrendous husband and human being.

It is possible that there are a select few whose place is to be THE MAN in general. Their JOB is to excel. I doubt this is the case for a couple reasons. First, being The Man generates such a lack of balance in one aspect of your life, the opportunities and forces available to you would be difficult to balance once, much less switching the direction of the balancing act. This is why so many fall so quickly when their time has past. Second, those who seem to be The Man in multiple arenas are actually just changing the face of The Man. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is a great example. Cubes is absolutely The Man. But its not really as a basketball guy. Or a network developer. Or an investor. Its as an idea man/hype machine. He does all the rest of that stuff, and does it well. But it is all based on his personal hype ability.

There is a lot to be learned from these guys. And a lot to be gained from their growth. Rather than question them and look down at them for the benefits of their successes, we would be better off to feed them and ride the wave of their reforming and reshaping things. If we stick with just the status quo, we will always just have what we have. Progress, no matter how uncomfortable, comes from the breaking and rebuilding of things.

The up side to this is, EVERYONE is The Man somewhere. No matter who you are, there is some arena that you will RULE. Admittedly, it may be a remarkably small and largely not lucrative arena. But, it is the place you will shine. It is the place you will find the most joy and fulfillment. It is the place you will do most for those around you.


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