Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why Jimmy Quits

Years ago growing up in Los Angeles we use to play sandlot football. I stood in line, along with other kids, hoping to be picked to be on a good team. I liked being on the same team with Johnny Odom, a fat Japanese fifth grade kid, as he was almost unmovable. He was slow and clumsy, but if we needed short down yardage we would always give the ball to fat Johnny who, with his shiny blue and gold LA Rams helmet (the envy of us all), would squash the opposing team with ease.

Denny Dietrich was also a good guy to have on our side as he was wiry and strong. I liked playing against Chucky Green as he was as light as a feather and I could toss him around with ease. Jimmy Farmer was a bit of a whiner and usually got hurt every game we played. Jimmy was always the last kid to be picked. No one really liked him, but when you have to have enough kids to play a game you take whoever shows up.

On my walk this morning I thought about Jimmy as it relates to overseas teams. I have noticed that usually in every team situation there is a guy or a family that the rest of the team doesn’t really like. Maybe they are whiny or they have an irritating personality. Or, perhaps, they just don’t have that indefinable chemistry which determines if they will be insiders or outsiders within the group. Whatever the reason, there seems to be a Jimmy Farmer in every group.

Like Jimmy, this odd guy (or couple) volunteers for an assignment and the organization usually picks them, with reservation. Jimmy goes to the field and the team leader doesn’t like him and never really gives him the attention he gives to others on the team. Attitude always shows up, and even Jimmy knows he was picked out of necessity, not because they want him around. Before long, either by Jimmy or the organization, a decision is made to release him from the team. Jimmy goes home and everyone points fingers on whose fault it was that he didn’t make it. Sadly, someone usually blames God saying it was His will or they missed understanding His will. It’s common in Christian circles that when things don’t go according to plan we can always cover our mistakes by attributing the failure to a higher power.

So who is at fault for Jimmy’s failure? Certainly Jimmy bears a lot of the responsibility. If he is not gifted to play ball (or be on the field) he shouldn’t try. He should look for another game. If he insists on playing the game then he needs to work on not being such an irritant and work on his interpersonal skills.

The team and team owner also shares in Jimmy’s failure. If you don’t like the guy, don’t pick him to play on the team. If the team is going to accept him, then treat him like a full fledge member, don’t make his life so miserable that you force him to quit. In fact, given his difficult personality, the team will need to go the extra mile to make sure he does succeed. Anyone can coach a talented team. The coach of the year is the one who can take a less than talented group to the playoffs. It’s disingenuous to take the credit when things are going well, but blame Jimmy when the wheels fall off.

I wonder where Jimmy is now? I know he never played in the NFL, but bet the guy ended up doing all right playing another game. I’ve seen a lot of Jimmy’s leave the game overseas and though there are a myriad of reasons why they didn’t make it I’m certain it wasn’t God’s fault.