Professional sports enterprises are full of people trying to forget the past.
Golfer Tiger Woods—now known by legions as “The Cheetah”—will be the latest to join that club today.
Maybe Woods consulted with Bill “what’s past is prologue” Polian for advice in advance of his 11 a.m. press conference.
Or perhaps he discussed strategy with Bill Belichick, who has forgotten more about secretly video taping opponents than most people ever know. Belichick is the only guy I know who uses the line of “it’s in the past” to dodge an issue that happened two minutes ago.
Of course Mark McGwire is a solid case study for Tiger. Remember, he’s not here to discuss the past.
Even if he doesn’t want to remember and/or discuss it, certainly Woods will have to address the past—at least on some level. While it appears from today's press conference Woods is addressing the past internally, there's no indication how he'll deal with it when the spotlight is on. Early indications are that he'll deal with it delicately.
The truth is, all people have one foot in the past and one in the present. And maybe a toe in the future. Remembering and learning from the past, turning that into a present day payoff is what allows us to pave a brighter future.
Pro athletes, coaches and historians all know this.
There’s a common saying in sports; “You’re only as good as now.” That’s true, but you don’t think Polian, Colts Coach Jim Caldwell and his staff and quarterback Peyton Manning aren’t dissecting every aspect of last season so they can better script the next Colts chapter.
Besides, pro sports is built on remembering the past.
We have Hall of Fames built to memorialize past accomplishments, we name all-pros in every sport at the end of every year based on the season in the rearview mirror, college athletics have all-America honors and teams retire numbers based on great past accomplishments. In fact, no one remembers—and profits from—the past quite like professional sports properties.
Good grief, throwback uniforms have become a cottage industry. The good old days are fine when they sell.
Truth is, when it’s about greatness, sports types are all too eager to not only remember the past, but etch it in cast iron and erect it for all to see. That’s why there’s a statue of Michael Jordon in front of the United Center and that’s why there will someday be a statue of Peyton Manning in front of Lucas Oil Stadium.
When the past is sullied, when it’s painful—and that pain outstrips the profit—or when they plain don’t feel like explaining mistakes, the ringleaders of pro sports trot out the tired lines about the past. And there's as much mis-remembering as there is remembering. That gem was brought to you by Roger Clemens, who threw away his Hall of Fame career in lieu of telling the truth.
But there’s always value in remembering the past. He may not want to talk about it publicly, but even Bill Polian knows that.
Living in the now is a great concept. When it comes to dealing with past transgressions, it’s also one of the world’s greatest dodges. As an absolute, we know it doesn’t work.
That’s why it’s time we cast aside the likes Ari Fleischer, who carefully scripted McGwire’s baseball re-entry. It’s time to stop the surly responses when fans come looking for explanations that quite frankly they’re owed.
The past is the past. And it’s no more easily forgotten rather its glorious, disastrous or just plain disgraceful.
Smart guys like Polian, Belichick and Woods know that.
And it’s time the puppet masters of pro sports start acting like the fans know that too. And trot out the truth. No spinning or script necessary. Indignation need not be applied.
Under this strategy, fan contempt will stagger and be slain.
And only then will the prologue lead to a truly happy ending.