Sunday, August 7, 2011

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Deion Sanders is a Hall of Famer now, enshrined with the other NFL greats in Canton, Ohio. It’s an honor he has certainly earned. His play, on the field, over his 14-year career, spoke for itself. His mouth and his “Prime Time” persona, however, left many divided on two-sport star though.

I’ve always rooted against Prime Time. Those who self-aggrandize themselves are the ones I want to see fall. I wasn’t alone in that. Deion isn’t shy about calling out “the haters.” These days he does it while praising the Lord, yet another big mouth in the sporting world giving praise to Jesus on the inhale and screaming “look at me!” on the exhale of every breath.

My issue isn’t with the hypocrisy with which he throws the Lord’s name around though. That can stay between he and Jesus and I trust it’ll get worked out just right. My issue is with Prime Time’s speech and more specifically the message it contained and that it was directed at a bunch of kids in a corporately sponsored tee shirts.

In his speech he says: “I never told you, Mama, I played for a youth team called the Fort Myers Rebels. Everybody on that team, their parents were doctors or chiefs of police. Me and my friend were the only African-American kids on that team. I was ashamed of my Mama. My Mama worked in a hospital. She pushed a cart in a hospital. I was ashamed of my Mama, who sacrificed everything for me to make sure I was best-dressed in school.
One of my friends in high school saw her pushing a cart and clowned me because of my Mama. So I made a pledge to myself that I don't care what it takes, I'm not gonna do anything illegal, but my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.”

I forgive you, Deion, for being ashamed of your mother, as a kid, in that situation. And I understand how something like that can motivate a kid—as it apparently did in Sanders’ case to achieve more. Kids are foolish and stupid and don’t understand what’s truly important in life. What’s unacceptable is that Prime Time doesn’t seem to truly understand that what his mom did for him is real. He fails to appreciate that there was honor in pushing that cart. There was honor in sacrificing so that he could be, “best-dressed in school.”

Deion, you gave your mom more money than she’s ever probably known what to do with, but you didn’t save her. She didn’t need saving. It sounds like she had honor and integrity and a strong work ethic and life may not have been easy for her, life may not have been a piece of cake, but she was managing and doing the best she could. Deion said that he had been ashamed of her. He never said that he stopped being ashamed. He talked about how he tackled every bill she was sent after he turned Pro.

He went on to say that he created the Prime Time persona as a way of seeing to it that cornerbacks got paid more in an NFL where a premium wasn’t really placed on that position. He thinks that he’s the reason why they do now, though pass-happy offensive guru Mike Martz, in attendance in support of Marshall Faulk who was also enshrined, probably had more to do with that than Prime Time ever did. He said that he did it all for his mama. Everything was for his mama.

I’m sorry, Deion. I’m just not buying it. The honest part of what he said was that he was ashamed of her. That shame certainly motivated him. He has, unquestionably, provided for his mother and given her a luxurious second half to her life. It wasn’t all for her though. It was because he didn’t want to push a cart in a hospital. It was because he still doesn’t see the honor in pushing that cart.

He went on to say later in his speech: “What are we doing with this platform? Are we just walking around with these gold jackets? Let's provoke change. Truth family, I love you. We are raising your kids to be CEOs, not employees, leaders, not followers.”

I’ve got some news for you Prime Time. CEOs sit around in boardrooms and talk but their subordinates are the ones who get things done. And every General in the history of war will tell you that it was the soldiers, not themselves who won the battles that shaped the world we live in. Success isn’t the money in your bank accounts, it’s not the number of celebrity friends who come to watch you give a speech, it’s not a matter of whether people see you as a shot caller or a follower. Success is about being the best you can be.

Your mom was a success long before you gave her cars and jewelry and a big fancy house. She wasn’t a leader; she was a follower. She wasn’t a CEO; she was an employee. She was a woman with a kid who wanted the world and she provided him with the opportunity to take it. She provided that opportunity by pushing a cart. She provided that opportunity by cleaning up after people who probably didn’t appreciate what she did. She provided that opportunity because it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t about getting respect for her. It was about putting food on the table.

There’s dignity in pushing a cart, Deion. There’s honor in cleaning up after others. There are important people in this world who will never hold a press conference or fly in a private jet. Prime Time was never about your mother. Prime Time, like everything else in your career, was all about you.

There’s a Hall of Fame for people though, Prime Time. I know that you know all about it because you’re big on praising Jesus. When it comes time for induction into that hallowed hall, I think you may be surprised to find that all the first ballot inductees to that sacred place are the people like your mom who pushed the carts because they cared about others, more than they ever cared about themselves.


Malachi said...

I don't pay too much attention to the hall of fame stuff but I saw a little bit of Sanders'.
Not many people would have noticed he never said he stopped being ashamed of her - maybe not even his mama.
I'm glad you wrote this, sharing your thoughts about it. You might be right, you might be wrong about if he sees any honor in pushing a cart.
But I agree that it takes more than CEOs or Generals to keep the world turning. Thank God for garbage collectors, sewage waste cleaners, people working in sweatshops and factories. If we didn't have people willing to work those jobs, we couldn't sit in our offices and look pretty.
I think sometimes we all need the reminder that the janitor is just as important in the grand scheme of things as the CEO will ever be.

Scarlett Lee said...

Now I am not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination, but in reading your post, I have to say I cannot agree with you more.

I personally think that there is no more honor in being a CEO than a cart pusher.