Thursday, November 16, 2006

Emmitt Smith: Another championship

All-time NFL rushing champion, Super Bowl MVP, and certain future Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith padded the old resume last night with a championship in ABC's "Dancing With The Stars".

I didn't watch much of this competition, even though Robynne and Aly were glued to it. Both of them (and, naturally, all of Dallas) were passionate E. Smith backers. And why not? What's not to like about this guy?

That's what I'd like to talk about this morning: Emmitt Smith - the every-day guy who can do anything.

E. Smith's success (heck, dominance) as an NFL running back is difficult to explain. He's too small, too slow, not quick enough, etc to be a great NFL back. Obviously, none of that mattered much to him. E. Smith became the dominant player he was by sheer will and effort. He worked his ass off, and, just as importantly, he worked smart. He listened to his coaches, he leveraged the talent around him, and he quietly inspired his teammates to excel.

His win in the big dance contest (which was, surprisingly to me, nowhere near as gay as I expected, maybe because of E. Smith's presence) can be attributed to the exact same characteristics. He listened to his professional dancer partner (HOT, btw), leveraged her talent, and brought out the best in her as she brought out the best in him.

Through it all, he was as classy as you could want. He never became cocky, always deflected credit to his partner, and, nearly immediately after being announced the champion, gave credit to his opponent, even though he probably wanted to (and would have been cheered for doing it) crush Mario (My Dimples Actually Penetrate My Tiny Brain) Lopez like the obnoxious little weasel he is.

The thing I keep coming back to, both in this competition and when looking back over E. Smith's NFL career, is competitiveness. E. Smith, like his Cowboy teammates Mike Irvin and Troy Aikman, wants to win everything he gets involved in. Losing is the most distasteful thing in the world to these guys. The stories about Irvin are nearly urban legend, how, even in silly little charity flag-football games, he gets a look in his eye that's not human. E. Smith is, I suspect, the same way. I don't know how admirable a quality this is - being competitive, disliking losing, wanting to win; those are admirable. Being consumed by it; maybe not. Regardless, it's part of what gives E. Smith his edge, and it's a useful lesson in how it's all a competition, whether that means you against another human, yourself, the environment, or whatever.

What's not to like about this guy? This is the secret to his success, and probably the secret to the success of the show. This is a guy you can talk about with your kids, pull out bits of how he handles himself as examples of how to do it correctly. The kids are already into the show, and it's easy to point out some of the attributes you'd like for them to emulate - "Notice how he gives his partner credit", "See how hard they're working", "He's not naturally all that good at this, but he's making himself better through hard work, practice, and listening to his teacher", "Did you notice how much fun he's having, and how the judges keep commenting on it" - all kinds of great lessons.

Thanks, E. Smith, for being a class act, for helping me teach my kids a few important lessons in a fun way, and for providing us with more entertainment in an unexpected venue. Enjoy winning (again), and I hope the endorsement deals pile up in front of your house like the autumn leaves.

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