By Dominic Gideon
Within my first week of tackle football, my fate had been set. The coach squashed my play-maker dreams by plopping me with the linemen. Though I had always dazzled as a wide receiver in recess football, by the time I was old enough for tackle—fifth-grade, I hit a chunky phase while I saw my peers sprouting inch by inch above my eye-level.
I initially grumbled over the terrible mistake my coach made, but eventually I fell in love with battling on the front line.
I loved the tough and gritty life as a lineman. We never asked for applause, we just humbly took care of the grunt work while the pretty boys gained the yards. I had all the heart and drive in the world, but the problem was that I was small, and small doesn’t cut it as a lineman. I looked like I could’ve been a running back, but I had no speed or experience, so they relegated me to the minimum required snaps on the defensive side of the ball.
I accepted my doomed fate on the practice squad and pushed the starters as hard as I could—all 120 pounds of me. I wish I could say I was the selfless benchwarmer who gave my all during practice for the benefit of the team, living out the humble lineman mindset, but that wasn’t true. I remember an internal struggle that occurred when I kept finding a way to sneak by the left tackle and disrupt the play. I knew what the starting tackle was doing wrong, but I was silent, not wanting to end my few chances of actually succeeding as an undersized lineman.
My whole life I’ve accepted the idea of humility but, trained by a self-centered culture, I’ve unknowingly stomped on its real-life manifestation.
Throughout my life, I’ve let my obsession with my own performance in sports get in the way with the good of the team. Though it sucked, sometimes it was better that I sat on the sideline in a rugby match; sometimes it was better that I didn’t take many shots in a basketball game and went without scoring; maybe it was better that I got taken out in a lacrosse game, replaced by someone better.
It wasn’t until this year as a junior in college seminary that I confronted this self-centered attitude that revealed itself in sports. One of the first homilies of the year, the priest gave me a blunt wakeup call that
“it’s not about you”
(a homily you’re not going to hear at the 11AM family mass). The priest challenged us to give up the selfish focus on ourselves and remember that we live for others.
After having my core shaken by these words, I re-examined how I actually live out humility. I realized for so much of my life, I’ve struggled with the ability to put my team in front of my own stubborn desire for success. I’ve been too focused on making my own plays and accumulating my own stats that I’ve hindered my ability to help my team succeed. This flaw has been caused by my attempt to make myself look good and to show others how talented I am—trying to glorify myself rather than God.
Though these may seem like miniscule signs of pride, they highlight a significant impediment in my life. Whenever I focus too intently on myself, I cut off my ability to love God and others. I see this pride seep into my friendships when I get into arguments looking to win rather than finding the truth. It seeps into my family life when I load up my schedule with my own priorities that I don’t make time to help take out the trash or visit my grandparents. It seeps into my relationship with God when I shrug off prayer to spend extra time on the internet, putting my will before His.
Through every encounter I have in life, I have an opportunity to serve God and love others.
Our culture has trained me to use every encounter to serve myself. Growing up, I was taught the former in church and the latter in society, and I switched between mindsets depending on which one was more convenient. Even after growing in understanding and acceptance of humility, I still can give in to my selfish tendencies. As I continue to work toward a more humble outlook on life, I need to decide whether I will revert back to that practice squad pride or live out the belief that it’s not about me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dominic Gideon is a sophomore in college at Borromeo Seminary in the Diocese of Cleveland and takes classes at John Carroll University where he’s majoring in Creative Writing and Philosophy. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, loves his hometown, and is a passionate Cleveland sports fan no matter how great or terrible they are. Dominic has always had a passion for writing and sports throughout his life. He has continued playing basketball while at Borromeo as a part of their team with whom he hopes to win the inter-seminary tournament in Columbus. He also enjoys listening to indie rock, spending time with friends, and most importantly, spreading the Gospel. @theCLEdomocracy @theBuckstars