Chappy and I used to play hockey together. He was our team’s top center. I was the goalie.
As an excellent hockey player and team captain, Chappy had earned permission to chew out any of the guys on the team who weren’t pulling their weight. Anyone he admonished knew the feedback was warranted and for their own good.
It was given to them directly, not grumbled behind their back. Discussion was open and honest, and dealt with then and there. He was also open to receiving feedback in return.
After one disastrous game, in which I couldn’t get my act together no matter how hard I tried, Chappy gave me a well-deserved tongue lashing. I was just as frustrated with myself for letting in some soft goals and not being able to get comfortable in net.
He must have sensed that frustration, since he then did something I never expected. He suggested that we swap positions at our next practice.
That Monday afternoon, Chappy donned my pads. I moved up to center. For an hour and a half we got a taste of what it was like to be in the other’s skates.
Exhausted, drenched in sweat, and completely humbled at our inability to cover the other’s position, we dragged ourselves back to the dressing room and slumped onto the benches across from each other.
Chappy’s eyes met mine. Slowly, he shook his head and said, “I will never yell at you again.”
Still panting, I gasped, “And I’ll never yell at you either.”
Chappy was no armchair quarterback. If he was going to criticize somebody for something, he wanted to know exactly what it was like to be in their skates…er, shoes. He gave the benefit of the doubt. He spoke with hopes of building the other person up, not tearing them down.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when someone who has never played hockey watches the extra-slow-motion replay of a backhand from inside the slot bulging the twine, then announces, “Aw, the goalie should have had that!”
Yes, maybe he should have. That’s why they pay him the big bucks. But, having played that position before, I don’t fault him for missing it. It’s amazing how easy something looks until you try it yourself.
That’s why I like shows like Pros vs Joes and Undercover Boss. The cocky amateur jock gets schooled about what it really takes to be a professional athlete. The corporate CEO gains an appreciation for the many hands that support the vision he/she is casting for his/her company.
Armchair quarterbacks aren’t necessarily couch potatoes. They’re just people who expect more from others than they do from themselves.
So if you find yourself thinking that someone you know really needs to hear this…