“I remember going back and watching the Cleveland Browns with Jimmy Brown and Bobby Mitchell in the backfield. And I thought, wow, what a remarkable set of backs. I was in college. And suddenly I’m playing against Bobby Mitchell. It’s still clear in my mind. I was so intimidated. I didn’t know, even if he caught the ball, could I even tackle him and get him on the ground.
The first time I played him, he came off the line of scrimmage, I grabbed him and we ended up on the ground. I got called for the incident – for holding, I don’t recall what the penalty was – but it gave me such a relief. I knew I could get him on the ground.
It improved from there, once I realized that he was human.”
This, from a childhood hero of mine, Pat Fischer, #37, of the Washington Redskins. We were talking about competition – about going head to head against big names who have the expectation of winning, and how an underdog makes his mark. If you’re not a Redskin fan, let me explain. Pat stands about 5′ 9″ in cleats and in his playing days weighed in at about 170 lbs. He was never as fast as Bob Hayes or as big as Harold Carmichael, but as Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas said, “If he hits you, he’ll knock your socks off.” In a league of tough guys, he was known as a tough guy, playing professional football for 17 seasons during the 60’s and 70’s.
And, as with most of the conversations I’ve had over the past year or so, where I thought we were going wasn’t where we ended up.
Pat’s point is a fundamental lesson on how to win. What didn’t he say? He didn’t talk about what was happening on the outside – the results, the physical nature of his play or even the trash talk. His first demons were internal. He had to prove to himself that Bobby Mitchell was human – that he could be tackled – and once that demon was down, he realized he belonged on the field next to these same guys he idolized in college.
The first battles are internal – what Steven Pressfield might refer to as Resistance in his wonderful book, The War of Art. Once Resistance is grabbed and thrown to the ground, all things are possible.