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Life Lessons

A Question of Ego

“People hate me because I am a multifaceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius.” — Comedian Jerry Lewis

Ego is a three-letter word with the reputation of a four-letter word.

To many, excessive ego is a vice, while a lack of ego is deemed praiseworthy.

For instance, Mike Dunlap recently received laurels in a Tucson Citizen article for his selfless performance as assistant coach of the Arizona Wildcats. Dunlap’s willingness to contribute without any need for credit seems to have rubbed off on the team, which is in the Sweet 16. (Many thanks to Doug Priore for pointing out the article.)

But if you look closely, you can find many examples of egos that never got in the way of winning. Reggie Jackson came to the New York Yankees and said, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.” His remark did little for clubhouse harmony, but the Yankees won the World Series in 1977 and 1978.

Pete Rose, who has more hits than any player in big-league history, could recite his stats down to the last percentage point. For some players, an emphasis on stats can reflect a “me first” attitude. But Rose pointed out — correctly — that every time he improved his stats, he helped the team. Sure enough, Rose payed in more winning games than any big-leaguer.

So where does ego fit into a team?

The interaction of personalities is hard to define, but here are two guidelines on whether a big ego will be good for the team or not.

Does the person with the big ego back it up? Reggie Jackson did. He helped the Yankees wrap up the 1977 Word Series by hitting three home runs In Game 6. No one was complaining about his ego that night.

Does the person with the big ego need to put others down? Someone who takes all the credit while blaming others for what goes wrong will never connect with teammates.

It makes you wonder how heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali would have fit into a team. After all, he said, “I am the greatest of all time!” And some people think he was!

Coach Tully’s Extra Point: Ali said: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”


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