The Meme Train

by Jack Warren, Top Coach editor and host

Jack W 3Back in his junior high days, my youngest son decided to give wrestling a shot. He was new to the sport and did surprisingly well. He was also new to the wrestling culture. His stories always served as the fodder for some good laughs, as Alex was never took a super-serious approach to athletics. One repeated topic of conversation was the motivational tee-shirts that many of his teammates wore. You’ve seen them — many oft-repeated slogans that walk that fine line between making sense and not. That led us one Friday morning (at our weekly McDonald’s breakfast) to create our own suitable-for-tee-shirt slogan: Pain just took the last train out of town. It almost sounds like it should make sense, kinda like a Rutles song almost sounds like a Beatles’ song.

With the advent of social media, these slogans have taken on a new life, pumping this motivational wisdom into our collective psyches (typically with a motivational photo!). Then they’re repeated (retweeted!) with little thought as to whether what we’re saying makes sense or just happens to sound good. Hence, memes.

One such slogan or motto that has gained a new life in the era social media is of a 1980 vintage. In The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars), Yoda famously tells Luke, “Do or do not. There is no try.” This is especially popular in our own athletic universe. Sounds good. Sounds like it makes sense. But as they say in football, “Upon further review…” Does it really make sense? Well, there’s always the issue of semantics. I guess it’s all about how you frame it and how it’s received. For a Jedi Knight, it may well make absolute sense. You’re either a Jedi or you’re not.  But in the athletic realm (as well as other areas), when it comes right down to it, we may be losing credibility each time we repeat it. It’s really not so black and white.

You see, there is great benefit to be received from striving. There is honor in effort. There is a try. We as baseball coaches should know this better than anyone. Failure is always in front of us. Victory is always within reach. We cannot always do, but we can always try. And then we can try again. Baseball, as with most athletic endeavors, is about the attempt. We will not always succeed, but we will almost always get better. And that is the ultimate success.

Don’t get so caught up in how cool or deep something sounds that you don’t do a quick smell test. I’m reminded of the hippies, stoners, and “poets” of the 60’s and 70’s repeating a line from a Jim Morrison song as if it were a holy scripture. “Deep, man, deep.”

Exercise caution before you jump on the meme train or the slogan bandwagon. What may be a short term victory on the motivational front, may be something that’s an object of humor at the 20-year reunion.

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