Embrace The Suck: Number 23Posted: February 15, 2013
Previously I discussed the importance of Embracing The Suck. This week many tributes have been aired and published in honor of Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, and it’s been recounted many times how one summer Michael chose to embrace the suck at the prime of his basketball career.
In 1993, the greatest player in the history of the game quit. Walked away. He wanted to do something different, something he knew that he would very likely suck at. He wanted to play baseball.
Michael’s father had been murdered that summer. Michael was devastated. He idolized his dad, even imitating how his dad stuck out his tongue while engrossed in his work. Michael adopted that and made it part of his signature move when he drove to the basket.
The elder Jordan’s dream was that Michael would be a baseball star. That was all the incentive Michael needed to quit the Bulls and sign a minor-league contract with the White Sox. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Jerry Reinsdorf owned both teams.
A former high school pitcher and NBA burnout, Jordan had traded his high-tops for a pair of spikes. Shaken by his father’s murder and emotionally frail after three consecutive NBA titles, Jordan retired from basketball in the fall of ’93. He’d instead chase those dreamy last conversations he’d had with his father, the ones where they’d muse over leaving basketball, playing baseball, discovering a fresh thirst for an unconquerable game… By the standards of his previous job, Michael Jordan was going to fail – wholly, miserably, and publicly. – Tim Brown
By the standards of you and me, mere mortals, Jordan distinguished himself reasonably well. In 127 games with the Double-A Birmingham Barons he batted .202, struck out 114 times, and committed 11 errors. He also stole 30 bases, drove in 51 runs, and hit three home runs.
By the standards of Number 23, though, he sucked. Wholly, miserably, and publicly. Like Superman without his powers. Jordan was mocked in the stands and in the press. And guess what else: he didn’t care. It didn’t matter to him. He was relentless. He humbled himself. He attached his heart and soul to the game of baseball and gave it his all.
Tens of thousands came to witness one of the great athletes of his generation loop a single into right-center field. Tens of thousands more, perhaps, came to see him strike out. Often, they left happy. – Tim Brown
By the end of the summer Michael knew it was time to return to basketball. He announced it in a two-word press release: “I’m back.”
So what’s the point? It’s this: Jordan put his all, his heart and soul, into something he knew he was probably going to suck at. He didn’t require baseball not to suck. He accepted the suck. He embraced the suck. At the end, he took pride in having survived the suck.
It’s a powerful lesson: Accept failure. Enjoy it, even. Embrace the suck, for the suck is part of the process. – A.J. Jacobs
If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. – Neil Gaiman
If Air Jordan can walk away from something he excelled at, deliberately put himself into a suck situation, embrace it, and survive it, so can I. So can you. Let’s do this. Be like Mike.