Talent means a great deal, especially in sports. Athletic prowess is valued in our country. It's what helps athletes earn high school championships, college scholarships, and millions of dollars in salaries and endorsements.
But talent isn't everything, just ask athletes like Tiger Woods, Kurt Busch and Tim Tebow.
How many times have we watched incredibly talented athletes self destruct? Careers and even lives have unraveled due to bad decisions and bad attitudes.
Tiger Woods' demise, for example has been well documented. Anointed the greatest golfer in history, Woods seemed on track to break all major records in his sport, in addition to becoming a hero for even non-sports fans. But after his high-profile bad behavior off the golf course, the once-revered golfer fell out of favor with his family, his fans, his fellow competitors, and many of his lucrative sponsors.
After reportedly working on his personal issues in rehabilitation, and trying to rehabilitate his image with public apologies, Woods finally won a tournament this weekend, his first victory in two years. 2012 may be the year that he climbs back among the world's best golfers, but he will never regain the widespread respect he once had.
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Kurt Busch is another example of a huge talent who just can't seem to put all the pieces together. Announced over the weekend, Busch has parted ways with his Roger Penske team mid-contract. His bad attitude seems to have caught up with him; the move comes just weeks after a rant at Homestead which cost him $50,000 in fines, the latest in a series of negative comments over the in-race radios to his crew and the media.
Busch is ranked among the top talents in NASCAR today, competing in the Chase six times in the last eight seasons, but in a sport that requires so much interaction with media, sponsors and the public, the hot-headed driver's temper could no longer be ignored. In a statement released over the weekend, Busch said he was going to work to better himself, but the damage to his career may already be done.
On the flip side, Tim Tebow's NFL success makes a strong case for the positive intangibles of sport. The Denver quarterback is not viewed as one of the best passers in football, but somehow the Broncos have won six of his seven games as a starter this season. The factor that may set Tebow apart from other players is his attitude: qualities that can't be measured in speed, strength or dollars. Against Kansas City, he completed only two passes in Denver's 17-10 win, and yet somehow his team does win. Tebow seems to be a hard worker, and a generally positive person, and success seems to follow him.
There is a lesson to be learned from some of these high-profile stories of sports: talent can take you to the pinnacle of success, but without intangibles like character and respect for others, it's hard to stay there.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.