It’s a Character Issue

The sports-section’s front page of Saturday’s, August 13th Chicago Tribune had a huge photograph of a toothpick-chewing Carlos Zambrano, along with the headline END OF “Z” LINE?  In smaller type below that: Ejected after serving up 5 HRs, dejected Zambrano cleans out his locker, says he’s retiring.  At the bottom of the three-quarters-page block was Manager Mike Quade’s quote: “I’m really disappointed….He walked out on 24 guys that are battling their (butts) off for him.”

I’m a Cubs’ fan; Nicki and I have a pair of the best cheap seats in the house at Wrigley Field; it’s been a tough season, but up till now, I’d thought Zambrano was one of the bright spots: he not only had a winning record, there hadn’t been a hint of the emotional tirades which had caused him and the Cubs such hair-tearing-out grief—angry stares showing up teammates who had the audacity to commit errors while King Zambrano was on the mound; kicking the living hell out of the water cooler after a rough inning; breaking bats across his frustrated knee after striking out, risking serious injury to his 18-million-dollar-a-year body; punching out his catcher in the clubhouse; shouting matches with teammates and manager in the dugout, to the point he finally was forced to attend anger management training last year, missing a good chunk of the season (at full pay, I might add; talk about expensive therapy).

Today’s professional athletes can be pompous prima donnas, to be sure, but Zambrano took it to an art form.  It was all about Carlos Zambrano, of course; the team mattered not at all; the team was secondary. We’re talking about an ego the size of Mount Rushmore, malfunctioning with the emotional discipline of a petulant child; and we all kept accepting this appalling unprofessional behavior, Cubs’ management in particular, because deep in our hearts we hoped this fruitcake would finally get it together and perform up to his enormous potential.  Are we saps or what?

I’m writing about Zambrano because, I think, the real issue here is a lack of character.  When we think, for example, we’re the most important human being since Babe Ruth, that the world we’re living in and the people populating it are insignificant fleas compared to our Royal Presence, when we quit on them like Zambrano did on the Cubs organization and his colleagues, what we’re doing is painting a portrait of our lack of character for all to witness.  And I ask you, What is more important than character?  Every adversity you’ll run into in your life is simply an opportunity to display character—to your spouse, children, friends, enemies, customers; and in Mr. Carlos Zambrano’s case, his dwindling cadre of fans, especially all those who have his name proudly plastered across the back of their Cubs’ jerseys.

Here is an axiom of life: there is no substitute for true character; a life devoid of character is a life wasted, a slap in the face to the Creator who blessed you with that life, provided you with the talent to go out there and do extraordinary things.  So I implore you: be a man or woman of true character; don’t ever quit on the people who are rooting for you, depend on you, and even praying for you.  Winston Churchill said it so well: “Never, never, never, never give up.”

I repeat: every adversity is an opportunity to display character.  Keep that in mind when things get a bit rocky.