Did Reagan and Marino Know What Defines Us?

I used to be a big fan of Dan Marino, the legendary quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. He brought a special talent to the game that made him a pure joy to watch. He was light on his feet, graceful, fun to observe and could throw the ball with such velocity that it seemed as if he had a cannon for an arm.

reaganMarino retired after a long and glorious career in the late 1990’s. He broke most of the records set for the position of quarterback.  Yet, when his name comes up today, he is remembered almost exclusively as “the guy who did not win the Super Bowl.”

Football is one of the most complex games on and off the field. The General Manager of a team has the responsibility of drafting the players and forming the team. The coach has the responsibility of training the team and devising plays and strategies for winning. The reality is that these two positions are just as important as the quarterback in winning a Super Bowl. Despite this fact, the Media gets to define Dan Marino as a great quarterback rather than one of the best ever…and, sadly, as one who lost the Superbowl.

The pundits and the journalists are the ones who weigh in on his legacy while the players who knew him best remain silent. I find it appalling that people who’ve never played the game get to shape and place value on the contribution and legacy of someone like Dan Marino… while the opinions of players who started and endured the game alongside him are discounted or bypassed.

This shaping of opinion by the Media can be seen well outside the parameters of football. Media directs its “slings and arrows” at select targets… all the while having themselves never fully entered into that aspect of life where actions speak louder than words.

A good example is former President Ronald Reagan.

While he was president, Reagan was labeled a simpleton, an idiot and a warmonger. Yet he knew his ideas were profound. He had such deeply held convictions that during press briefings, he would stand face to face with the press debating, sometimes for hours, his views and beliefs. Despite being bombarded with challenging questions, he stood in the middle of that arena explaining and expounding upon his polices. Contrast that today, where most press briefings are run by a White House spokesperson with the President nowhere to be found. Briefings with a press that is today so controlled, or intimidated, that their questions pose no meaningful challenge to the scripted “party line.” Yet, their President gets a pass Reagan neither sought nor received.

During his short time as President, Reagan was instrumental in dismantling the Soviet Empire, liberating millions of people and starting one of the largest booms in economic history, the benefits of which are still enjoyed today in the West. He won the Cold War without firing a shot, invading a country or risking the lives of millions. He accomplished what he did mainly through the power of his convictions and his willingness to act accordingly. There were times that his own Cabinet tried to reign him in, even deleting parts of speeches he had personally drafted because they thought his words overtly hostile. The famous, world-changing line spoken in Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was first deleted by his speechwriters as too antagonistic. Regardless, Reagan reinserted and delivered that historic line.

The press had  no qualms asserting that Reagan was mentally incapacitated during the final years of his Presidency. This despite the fact that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 1990s’s, many years after his term had ended.  Bob Costas, a sportscaster with no expertise in politics (and no civility, either), slandered the President’s name without mercy for executing the Office in such an allegedly “diminished mental state.”

It was only following Reagan’s death, when the the outpouring of love and admiration from the American people and world leaders alike was so undeniable, that the Media was finally silenced and his legacy given the credit it was due. Had he listened to the naysayers, his Presidency may well have been a failure rather than the resounding success that it was.

Sadly, this is the culture into which we have devolved.  A Media with a compromised integrity gets to label, attack and destroy people for not living by their standards or reflecting their political agenda.

The Reagans and Marinos teach us an important lesson. Its in adherence to the integrity of who we are and what we believe, with struggle and unwavering perseverance, that the real battles are won and the real heroes emerge; not by the opinions or through the words of others safely hiding in the wings whose only real “skill” is destruction.