Mind Over Sports

Clint Hurdle: Excelling for a Higher Order

Posted on: October 22, 2007

The idea of excelling for a higher order originated with the legend of “win one for the
Gipper.” It began in 1920 with the death of football legend George Gipp, Notre Dame’s first All-American selection who died at 25 from a strep throat infection. The Fighting Irish were 19-0-1 in his final 20 games. According to Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, Gipp, on his deathbed, said: “Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.” Eight years passed before Rockne did so, before a 1928 game against unbeaten Army at Yankee Stadium. “This is the day, and you are the team,” Rockne said. The Fighting Irish scored two second-half touchdowns to win 12-6

Athletes can benefit by excelling not only for themselves but for a higher order. When players take on a cause to help an individual or group otherwise unassociated with the team, there is a valuable by-product because the effort builds each player’s self-esteem, and thereby improves performance. The technique can work in team sports and in individual competition. And often it involves the memory of an individual. Which brings me to Clint Hurdle, manager of the Colorado Rockies.

clint-hurdleAccording to USA TODAY, in an article entitled “Hurdle remembers young friend,” the newspaper reported the following: “Since the end of August, Colorado manager Clint Hurdle has been writing and circling the number 64 at the top of his Rockies lineup card every game. It’s in memory of a young cancer patient that Hurdle befriended a couple of years ago. The youngster, 15-year-old Kyle Blakeman of suburban Denver, died August 28, a few days after Hurdle asked him for ‘a little something meaningful number-wise to put in play somehow.’ Blakeman said his baseball numbers had changed frequently but he always wore 64 in football so the two decided to adopt that. ‘It’s more meaningful than magical,’ Hurdle said. ‘It’s important that we just also pay attention to the other side of life at times and not get so wrapped up in sports 24/7 that we miss things that are right in front of our face every day. And when I see that No. 64 on the lineup card, it keeps a very good perspective for me throughout the game,’ he added, emotion in his voice. ‘That this game’s been played a long time, I’m not going to come up with anything new, and I got a buddy watching me that’s kind of pulling for the Rockies. It’s kind of a cool thing.’ Hurdle said it was brought to his attention after that game that the score of the NL pennant clinching victory against Arizona was 6-4. ‘It gave me goose bumps,’ he said.
And then he was reminded that the Rockies scored their six runs in the fourth inning. ‘That did not register on my radar during the game, either. That gave me goose bumps to some degree,’ he said.”


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