Egomania is everywhere in professional sports.
LeBron James became the leading scorer in NBA history recently then said: “I’ve led the league in assists. I’ve been able to do whatever it is this game has wanted me to do and also transform my game as well. I can’t take nobody over me.”
Then Travis Kelce, after his Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, got mouthy: “Not one of y’all said the Chiefs were going to take it home this year,” he said. “Not a single one. Feel that shit. Feel it. And on top of that, next time the Chiefs say something, put some respect on our names.”
Then there’s Aaron Rodgers. No need to elaborate.
Egomania also oozes from the golfers featured in the new Netflix documentary titled Full Swing. Justin Thomas said he was “1,000 percent” confident he could win another major golf tournament. Cockiness is the main vibe in this multi-episode documentary.
Which made it especially refreshing to watch one episode about a different kind of superb golfer who has striking humility. Joel Dahmen, currently ranked 90th in the world, competed in 24 tournaments last year finishing third in one and posting two top fives. Notably, he placed 10th in the U.S. Open.
A legitimate big-time golfer, one of the best in the world, he’s better than tens of thousands of talented golfers. But he doesn’t posture or talk like LeBron, Kelce, and Thomas. He’s not compelled to make sure people know he’s ambitious, confident, and elite.
“Most of my adult beverage nights with Joel end with me yelling at Joel about how good he is at golf and trying to get him to realize it,” says friend and pro golfer Max Homa in a Sportskeeda article. “Joel is the most self-deprecating, least-confident sounding person who is incredible at what he does that I’ve ever met.”
This surprising rhetoric makes him much more likable and endearing, more human, a person who admits his self-doubts, and doesn’t try to convince you he’s great and hyper-driven. He admits he’s just not the best and won’t be.
“All the best players, they’re way better than I am, and I’ll never be a top-10 player in the world, and I’ll never win majors,” he says about himself.
Although world-class at what he does, he’s not into telling everybody about it. It seems almost anti-American and anti-capitalistic. Can you imagine Justin Thomas admitting he’ll never win another major?
Would you rather hang out with Joel or LeBron, Kelce or Thomas? I’d prefer to spend time with Joel. He’s got a handle on himself and what’s important. The other guys have to keep shoving their greatness and pursuit of it down our throats. Humility appeals whereas arrogance turn us off.
You could make a solid argument that Dahmen will never be among the greatest because he’s not willing to put forth the effort. It’s valid to point out he may not be intense enough and isn’t maximizing his potential with his attitude.
Fine, but maybe he doesn’t need to be the best to be fulfilled. Not all of us want to rise that high and it’s acceptable to live that way. Maybe being the best is overrated. Tiger Woods doesn’t seem happy; nor does Thomas nor, Aaron Rodgers.
Greatness comes with a huge price tag. Usually, you end up being extremely self-centered with your time and ambition, short with other people, not others-directed, and alone a lot. You usually become less likable and sometimes an unimpressive pariah unworthy of admiration; like, say, Tiger Woods.
There’s no one in sports who has been more obsessed with becoming great than Tom Brady. In an Esquire article titled “Tom Brady Retires as Monument to Obsession,” there is wonderment about what’s churning inside super-human achievers such as Brady.
“It would be fascinating to have some look into the minds of the dozens of players on a Super Bowl champion team, some way to observe how long each of them relished the moment, basked in the afterglow, allowed themselves to stop the locomotive in their minds that had driven them forward, day after day and game after game, from high school ball through college, through the middling seasons with mediocre teams they powered through at the professional level to reach this, the summit, what they saw in their mind’s eye while staring at the ceiling in their childhood bedrooms. Some guys, you’ve got to think, do some laurel-resting through much of the following summer. With others, you wonder if the feeling of satisfaction even lasted weeks or days. The drive that had brought them to this point may be truly unstoppable. Even holding the Super Bowl trophy, their eyes flit towards the next one, the next season, the next game, the next practice, the next tape session. They did not summit a mountain after all. It was a lap on a track. And then you’re forced to wonder if that is what separates them from the merely very good, the greatest from the great. A few degrees of obsession that cause things to boil over, that risk losing any sense of equilibrium.”
That’s just it, the equilibrium, the balancing of thoughts, actions, and life. All this is tough to achieve if you decide to be the best and push aside anyone and anything that impedes that pursuit. How do you become obsessed without being number 1 without damaging your relationships and turning off fans? How do you not trample over everyone, and ignore their lives, because you want to win?
Is Dahmen a loser for not wanting to be the best and admitting he never will be? No, he’s authentic. His perspective is healthy.
In the golf documentary, he seemed content with his life. He and his caddie get along great, laughing through the rounds.
Dahmen is a regular guy. It’s rare. And beautiful.
A pro athlete devoid of ego.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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