Depuis le Bureau de John C. Gail,
“A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.” -Proverbs 28:20
This found its way into my head earlier today while I was in the car, listening to commentary on the recently completed NBA Finals. The first thing on everyone’s mind was which player was going where and who was leaving which team. As the anchor talked about LeBron James potentially going to the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018, I couldn’t help but think about whether loyalty means anything to society as a whole today. Then, I considered Kevin Durant’s relocation to Golden State after playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2008 and 2016 and the team-hopping from Cleveland, to Miami, and back again performed by LeBron James. These are only a few among countless stories of allegiance being thrown by the wayside, in the sports world alone. For the sake of a bigger paycheck, or better championship prospects, players will occasionally leave entire cities, disappoint entire communities.
Once I got home, I sat down and thought about it a bit further; what were the ramifications of these guys’ actions? I recalled instances of fans burning LeBron James’ jersey when he “took his talents to South Beach,” and it became increasingly clear to me that loyalty is a trait that people value. When you stay by their side, even when the outlook isn’t favorable, you communicate to them that they are worth something to you that warrants your giving up your own self-interest for their sake. On the contrary, when you leave them at the drop of a hat, when they’re no longer “useful” to you, people have a tendency to view you as an expedient jerk (for reasons unbeknownst to mankind, hmm…).
A Bastion of Faithfulness
While there are tons of examples of the kind of loyalty that people should really get back to having, one that was fairly personal for me actually came from the sports world (I swear, I’m not as much of a nerd about this as it looks).
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina rocked the New Orleans, shattering a great city and killing at least 1,245 people. It was the deadliest hurricane in almost a century, and its ramifications, physical, economic, and even political, crossed state borders. The National Guard was sent into the city to stop the looting and other crimes that were on the rise due to the lack of order. So many people moved out of New Orleans and surrounding cities over time that by 2008, we lost a representative in the Electoral College.
While so many people were leaving and throwing away any bit of hope they had left in what was arguably the culture center of the country, a plane touched down. That airplane carried a man with some shoulder problems and a dream. His name was Drew Brees.
Before that day, he was the quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, but tore his labrum in a game against the Denver Broncos. He underwent surgery and renegotiated with San Diego, who refused to make an offer that he could take, relying heavily on performance incentives, which he wouldn’t receive if he reinjured himself. Because of this, he had to look for other teams. The whole world was against him; hell, even his own body was against him. Aside from New Orleans, he had a trip to Miami on the to-do list, and if he couldn’t sign with either the Saints or the Dolphins, it was no telling where his career would go.
These anxious thoughts were the ones going through his head when he landed. He wanted the team just as much as the team, rather, the entire city, needed him.
The legend that found its way into my ears, when I was eight or nine and super into football, was that when Coach Sean Payton was driving Drew Brees around the city, he actually ended up getting a bit lost. He recalled thinking to himself that he ought to “forget dinner. I might as well drive them to Miami and open the door for (then-Dolphins coach) Nick Saban.”
Well, despite the navigational issues, Drew Brees found his way home. Turns out, he’d been there since his plane touched down. He signed with the New Orleans Saints and reignited, to some extent, hope in New Orleans.
Struggling to Start, but Sticking Around
After signing with New Orleans, the Saints were greeted with ten wins, out of sixteen games, in the 2006 season. The record was a huge turn from the lifeless 3-13 record from 2005, and it showed that the team had fight in it; I think that our city, especially the members of it whose lives were forever changed because of Katrina, emulated that same fighting spirit each day. Drew Brees led the NFL in passing yards that year, actually.
To give an idea of how this affected our community, here’s a story that my dad told me about an incident in 2006:
“I was going to check on a friend who I knew lived closer to where
Katrina did the most damage. As I walked from my car, with some food,
to the hotel where he was staying, a man called out to me: ‘is that Popeyes chicken?’ I said yes and offered him some. He accepted, and we sat on
the stairs and ate together. After he finished, the first thing he asked me was this: ‘mister, how did the Saints do on Sunday?'”
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that many in New Orleans saw the Saints’ comeback as a microcosm of their own journey in the world with which Mother Nature left them. Drew Brees could have had a penthouse in Miami and played under legendary coach, Nick Saban, but he chose New Orleans, and he didn’t look back. It’s been eleven years since his first season, and he’s become the face of a reborn, resilient city.
“Drew is just a microcosm of that city — what his comeback from shoulder surgery represents. … No one believed he’d be able to come back from that injury. New Orleans is the same way — the underdog no one believes can come back.”
-Todd Durkin, Drew’s personal trainer
Through the Highs and the Lows
As many know, the next two years (2007 and 2008) were less than favorable for the Saints. In 2008, Drew Brees almost broke a record for single-season passing yards held by the legendary Dan Marino, but the team missed the playoffs both years. They looked like the “Ain’ts” that the city knew even before 2005. Despite this, Drew stayed in New Orleans. He was widely considered an elite quarterback at this point, and the Chargers were surely in a state of constantly kicking themselves, but he didn’t leave. His commitment to the city was greater than his commitment to his championship prospects, or his own notoriety.
“He’s one of those rare guys who doesn’t think he’s entitled to be a famous athlete. He feels like he has this responsibility to do something with that privilege.”
Rick Larsen, President of national charity Operation Kids
To anyone with a television set, it’s easy to recall that this commitment paid off in 2009, when the New Orleans Saints shocked the country and won the Super Bowl, defeating a team from Indianapolis, led by the son of Archie Manning, who was a former Saints quarterback, himself. That man, Peyton Manning, was and is remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever touch the field. In typical New Orleans fashion, the game was won in a monumental comeback.
“I obviously take a lot of pride in what I do on the football field, because that has the ability to influence a lot of people. That puts smiles on people’s faces. That gives people a pep in their step on Monday morning when they go back to work.”
After the Peak, but Before the End
Shortly after New Orleans tasted a much-needed drink from the chalice of victory, the Saints (and specifically defensive coordinator, Greg Williams) were mired in what would become known as the “BountyGate scandal,” in which Williams allegedly was unethical in the way that he incentivized performance from his players, offering them money if they could injure members of the other team. Williams left the team on poor terms, and Sean Payton was suspended for a brief period of time. Despite these setbacks, Drew Brees stayed faithful to New Orleans and to the Saints, playing on to another playoff season.
Truly, the rest is history. Drew Brees has loved our city, and we’ve loved him, ever since.
The Takeaway for us Non-Quarterbacks
Regardless of any other qualities you have, lacking loyalty will eternally be a thorn in your side if you wish to lead others. They will see you as expedient, backstabbing, and prone to betraying those close to you.
Look at Maximilien Robespierre. He was extremely powerful, and people surely feared his authority, but he wasn’t a sustainable leader because he never trusted
those around him. He never allowed himself to be faithful to those around him, because he thought that they were out to get him. Turns out that when you execute people for disagreeing with you, people start to not like you so much, so they end up actually being out to get you. Below is Robespierre guillotining the executioner, presumably the only person other than himself who would be left in France if he had his way.
Okay, actually, Robespierre had quite a few issues. He did, though, err greatly when he committed himself to France, instead of the French. Everything was done in the name of “la Patrie,” or “the homeland.” He was willing to challenge, and even kill anyone who got in the way of his vision for France.
The natural response from everyone else went something like this: “Wow, this guy is a jerk, and he just beheaded Carl. You think we should, like, take care of this before we’re next on the chopping block?” Everyone in that conversation was promptly beheaded for looking at Robespierre in a funny manner as he walked down the street the next day. There was just something in your teeth, dude. Chill.
In the end, the very National Convention of which Robespierre was President arrested and killed him.
The Actual Takeaway, and Not a Historical Reference
I felt as though I had to add that, so I didn’t just look like a Drew Brees idolater (***spoiler alert*** I totally am). The lesson for today is that commitment is a mutual deal. You cannot ask for loyalty without giving it yourself. And you can’t pretend to be loyal for long, because unless your devotion is real, it will wash away with time.
P.S. I know this was a longer one, but it was really weighing on me today. Thanks for reading!
Oh yeah, and Drew Brees ended up breaking that record.