Gimmie fuel, gimmie fire, gimme that which I desire.
If you haven’t seen the ESPN program called The Brady 6, you should look it up. The program was an examination of the quarterbacks selected in the 2000 NFL draft before three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who went in the sixth round at number 199.
When the eventual question was asked of him, “What was that day like, watching so many athletes picked before you,” Brady had a moment.
He choked up, recovered, and stated plainly enough, “It was a bad day.”
The program made careful note of the fact none of the six quarterbacks chosen first achieved anywhere near the success Brady has. This made me wonder two things: how much the slight of being selected late fed his desire to achieve greatness, and how people who get too much handed to them too early crumble under pressure.
Sports history books are littered with names of first round, big money quarterbacks that went bust: Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf (to name very few). While it’s obvious they had to work hard to make it to the NFL, what happened between being picked and falling apart? Did they think they had made it and could thus slack off—Leinart/Russell—or did they not understand the enormous leap it takes from playing in college to performing in the NFL—Couch/Leaf?
It is widely noted JaMarcus Russell seemingly gave up as soon as the ink was dry on his contract. He was handed $32 million (guaranteed), and then stopped working out, gained weight, and lost games. At twenty-five, he said he was retiring from the sport, because, well, he could. $32 million can last several lifetimes.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who fought through at least a modicum of adversity to stand taller than their peers: think Super Bowl Champions Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, or Aaron Rodgers.
Though I have in no ways “made it” in my industry and am not comparing my accomplishments to their achievements, I do understand the burn neglect instills in a person, and I definitely feel strengthened by the shit I’ve taken throughout my career. Thus, stories of beating the odds are not only uplifting to me, they create hope, or possibly even faith. If anything, they make me continue onward, just to prove that I can take the weight of indifference upon my back and continue walking where others in my field have fallen to the wayside.
A few years back, a comedy club from my past went under. That it closed was no surprise; the owner was an awful businessman and in fact opened the club because he “Couldn’t think of anything better to try.”
At the outset, he had the money, the location, and the power. Like a Leinert or Leaf, everything just fell into his lap, and he let comics moving through his establishment exactly who the swinging cock was.
But owning a business is hard work and he was soon in over his head.
The man was perpetually rubber-checking comedians and companies; hotels locked comics out of rooms because the bill hadn’t been paid, liquor distributors gave the location a wide berth, and one comic, while staying in an apartment rented by the club, was watching television one day when everything went black. Apparently the electric bill hadn’t been paid for several months and the power company grew tired of such nonsense.
Though I take no joy in any club shutting down—when one club goes bust it creates less work and more competition—there was something special about that failure.
The owner of the room had full on stabbed me in the back twice, and unapologetically so. The specifics of what happened are not important, but what is significant is that I worked his room two times: two weeks after it opened, and then about a year before it closed. Each time, the owner shook my hand, looked me square in the eye, and lied to me. Each weekend I was there, the audience response had been great. He told me he was going to tell the booking agent as much. Instead, each time he told the booking agent I did poorly.
So while I’m not pleased the club failed, it does make me smile knowing that I held out longer than he did.
I may not have made it to the top of my career, but I understand the world needs soldiers as much as it does generals. I’m more than happy to play my role as a grunt, traveling from town to town in the smaller clubs, making people that can’t afford the $50 (or more) it costs to see a celebrity laugh their problems away for an evening.
Though I struggle, I continue onward, every day, one foot in front of the other. I write new material, hear more laughs, and move continuously forward. I may not have “made it,” but day-by-day I continue.
Of course there are oddities enough to skew any statistic; Peyton Manning went first round, and is a huge success. Conversely, I remember Brady Quinn—expected to go 1st yet falling to 22nd—leaving the draft room, so embarrassed by his slide he couldn’t take the cameras. Instead of using that slight to show the naysayers, like Tom Brady did, Quinn pouted, held out for a huge contract, and was worthless.
So maybe this is all conjecture and I am nothing but a bullshit artist.
Maybe I am wasting my life, and maybe my faith goes into the wrong places, but I love Randal’s speech at the end of Clerks II. I have to believe everything I’m doing is leading to something, that no moment is ever wasted, and that the payoff will be worth it. If I didn’t, what point would there be in getting up every morning?
Who knows what tomorrow will bring? All I know is I will face it standing, chin out, ready for the hit. What will happen to me?
All remains unknown.
But hope remains.