I received an email from my Mom last week that I felt sent such an important message that I thought, at least part of it should be shared. This is A Football Story, but really – the message is much more than that. In today’s times of judgment and finger pointing, & constant over-generalization about individuals based on race, religion, sexual orientation, political party, weight, choice of friends, and amongst other things, even choice of career, I felt this story needed to be shared.
For this blog I will make an example of the extreme generalization of a certain grouping of people that escalated when the country faced the mortgage debacle and crash of Wall Street in 2009. Every media outlet was all over it, from CNN to NBC to Yahoo!, to YouTube – media everywhere - and the masses jumped on the bandwagon, trouncing all over the popular cry: ‘all these Wall Street people care about is money’, ‘those greedy people on Wall Street looking only for their golden parachutes’…
But do we really all know the people about whom we speak in such derogatory commentary? Do we know how they live their lives - each and every one of them? Have we had an up close and personal view outside of what the media says? Because everything that is written in the media is always on the up and up, right? And the weatherman is always right too. We football fans should know better by now.
As in every single walk of life, granted, there are going to be people who make what many would deem greedy choices, or perhaps, even choices that are downright criminal (we see this in every profession, and in the NFL too). But for the most part, people are inherently good. And so the over-generalization that took over our country during the Wall Street crisis in the last few years has been quite painful to many individuals, and to the families of many good people who have given up so much of their life to work hard for their families in their chosen profession; and who have given and sacrificed so much even while working 17-20 hours, 6-7 days a week for decades; those who always answer the phone when their children need them, who volunteer and give back to their communities; who have still chosen the more economical or hybrid vehicles in place of the ostentatious.
So allow me to share a story from one Wall Street executive, a recently retired partner from one of the major firms, now a board member and ‘enjoyer’ of life – finally – after many, many years of sacrifice in her chosen career. I’ve been around people in her world for much of my coherent life, and I have seen so many who ultimately choose to prioritize family, health and giving before the material rewards that may come. And some – like my Mom – who also prioritizes something else…
Back to the email I received this last week… We are a very close-knit, East Coast family – so we like sharing with each other some of our day-to-day experiences. In fact, as I write this, Mom just texted me to share from a day at Coney Island in Brooklyn with my Dad – a place where we as a family have wonderful childhood memories. So last week, my Mom sent an email to my Dad, my brother and me, with an interesting transcript of an interview she recently did. An executive at one of the companies, for which my Mom is now a board member, interviewed her to share a little bit with their many employees about the newest member of the leadership team. I read the interview. When I got to one of the questions in what I felt was an incredibly honest and introspective interview, I took pause. The message was wonderful. And it was a much bigger message than meets the eye. So here it is, verbatim:
Interviewer: Tell us something about yourself that usually surprises people
Mom: “I think my passion about football and the extent it has taken me to is probably something that would surprise people. There have been really crazy things that I’ve done in my life involving football! I don’t usually talk about this but let me share an incident… A long while ago I was in the process of being recruited by another (Wall Street) firm to come join them. The CEO of the company I was with at the time found out about the opportunity and called me to his office. He was known for trying to give people perks to the extent he could - if they made sense – and he asked me what they could do to keep me. Knowing the business I was in (Wall Street), most people would have probably named a fat salary number… I didn’t. I said I wanted to meet Lawrence Taylor (from the New York Giants). And what do you know… a few weeks later the CEO called and said he had set it up! I ended up spending time with Lawrence Taylor and the Giants… and safe to say the company had my loyalties for several years hence!!
Most people thought it was crazy to not quote a salary number… and it’s not that I’m a celebrity-crazy person… but if I see a sportsperson… or specifically a football player … or even more specifically a Giants player, I would go out of my way to meet them.”
Now that’s a fan. She always loved LT.
My intent is not to put my Mom on a pedestal here. She would hardly want that anyway – it’s just not her way. My intent is to make one example that may represent more people in her chosen profession than the media leads us to often to believe. So perhaps generalizations aren’t always so fair. Perhaps it makes sense to avoid making someone guilty merely for the career path they have chosen; the religion they choose; the team they rep; or any other life choice. Perhaps it makes sense to pause, and think that people may choose a profession, but the stereotypes of that profession hardly define who they are in this world.
If you were in that similar situation – what would you have asked for?