Friday, August 22, 2014



By Jonathan T. Jefferson

“Where attention goes energy flows.”  While I’d heard this saying often enough, I didn’t begin to truly digest its meaning until I was in my mid-twenties.  Nearly 20 years later, the application of energy began to re-invade my thoughts while watching the World Cup soccer games this summer – particularly the manner in which the wailing and tearful Brazilians observed the pinnacle of their soccer empire get thoroughly dismantled by the German machine.  Brazil’s grief was soon matched by their arch rivals, Argentina, who would go on to lose to Germany in the World Cup finals. 

To grasp my position on the topic of “energy”, a brief glimpse into my maturation may prove enlightening.  Before graduating college, I had already dispensed with some of the follies of mankind’s design.  I no longer subscribed to any religion or held any political party affiliation.  This wasn’t the result of elite higher-educational programming, but because I never stopped asking the question “why?” 

It was not until graduate school that additional follies such as sports and race also landed in the unnecessary distractions corner of my mind.  Yet don’t be mistaken, this does not mean I take civic shortcuts:  I vote during most elections, I watch sports more than I’d like to, and I act against prejudice and discrimination how I deem best.  The point, however, is that I do not apply undue energy to any of these areas.  As a result, I’m never the person you’d observe crying over their outcomes.

During my early twenties, I was still lacking spiritual enlightenment.  On the subject of “God”, I created the following personal statement:
I believe in something.  I believe there is something in existence that we have not yet discovered, or that has not yet allowed us to discover it.  This something is not necessarily singular, plural, good or bad.  What is it?  I don’t know.

It became obvious to me that many of mankind’s beliefs come from a collective inability to accept the discomforting uncertainty of the not-knowing.  Living by my personal statement left me open to receive information from a universe of sources.  Hence, as previously mentioned, my epiphany regarding “energy” emerged during my mid-twenties.

Ultimately, I’ve come to maintain that there is not much difference between religion, sports, and political parties.  Each has their devout followers (fanatics), leaders, houses of worship (church/stadium), etc.  For the purposes of this article, I will focus on sports.   How do most people choose a sports team to follow?  Like religion and politics it is likely the result of parental emulation, or communal socialization based on the community in which one lives.  In other instances, a fan may inherit a team if it happens to receive the most media exposure at the time of enlightenment.  For example, when I became aware of baseball, the Yankees were back-to-back champs, and Reggie Jackson had recently become “Mr. October.”  Such overwhelming popularity pulled me into the fan fray.
So what does this have to do with energy?  Have you ever wondered where the burst of energy comes from when a crowd erupts into cheers while jumping to their feet?  Does a ball going in a basket, scaling a fence, or entering a goal really emit enough energy to make an entire nation explode with excitement?  Of course a ball doesn’t have that amount of energy.  Think of the yin and yang symbol, and the fact that each action has an equal reaction.  The energy then comes from the opposing team’s fans.  At the very moment that one team’s fans erupt with joy, the opposing fans sink with disappointment.  This exchange of energy is easily observable in crowds divided with both teams’ fans.

This one way exchange of energy is temporary and potentially destructive.  There were riots in Argentina after their team lost in the World Cup final.  I certainly don’t need to discuss the wars that religions have caused, or the stalemate that two party politics has caused to solidify my point.  Sports are a win or lose proposition.  The benefits of sports, like the benefits of religion and democracy, must be taught.  The best teaching is by example.

I was a successful high school middle distance runner, but I never cried when I was defeated.  The other runner (or runners) was simply better on that day.  My functional approach was to congratulate them, thank them for competing, and keep life moving forward.  I was also a successful middle school and high school track coach.  Win or lose, my charges and I were able to enjoy the bus rides home.  The way I was as an athlete resonated through me as a coach.  My runners trained hard, competed at their best, and marched on with life win, lose or draw.

If too much attention/energy is focused on the hopes for a favorable outcome to an event, a negative outcome can lead to sorrow, depression, and rage.  Too many fans and officials have lost their lives due to sporting event outcomes.  Have we forgotten about the Columbian soccer player (Escobar) who was murdered after the 1994 World Cup for mistakenly scoring a goal for an opposing team?

As an athletic director, however ironic, I don’t believe in the concept of a “big game”.  Too often people ask me if I’m going to the big game.  So as not to explain my position each time, I simply respond “yes” or “no”.   Not even the NFL Super Bowl is a big game.  I do believe a game can be big in scale, but not big in importance.  That applies to the FIFA World Cup as well.  In my book, “important” and “game” have little reason to appear in the same sentence.

Ultimately, we can all gain lasting energy by attending to arrangements of a more win–win nature.  Volunteer at a hospital, plant trees, help a neighbor shovel heavy snow, etc.  If an activity brings you satisfaction while lifting another’s spirit, it is a synergistic sharing of energy; in these circumstances 1 + 1 = 3. 

In the final analysis, it’s the sport of life that ultimately makes the difference.