Dropping The Ball
While in fact, dropping the ball was a literal event in my life (see ‘My Story’) for most of us it is a metaphor and chances are most everyone can relate to the metaphor. What does “dropping the ball” mean to you? To what event does the metaphor refer in your life? What were the circumstances leading up to ‘the drop’? What were the ramifications or significance of that specific moment? Does dropping the ball refer to a single event, a process, a pattern, an action, an omission, a failure to act? Was this an issue of character, skill or volition?
How did the event/circumstance try to define you? When did the event occur in your life? Whether in the present, the recent past, months or years ago the stigma of dropping the ball can be lifelong. One factor is the degree of public awareness of the event. Dropping a ball in a fully packed stadium is very public. Everyone expects you to catch the ball. Dropping the ball is totally unacceptable but if we do drop the ball, we become wide open to the criticism and judgement of others as well as ourselves. An unfortunate possibility is that we can be defined negatively by what happened.
We thus come to: What do we do about it? What is our response?
Adversity- ‘dropping the ball’ may be an opportunity for re-purposing. in the face of adversity how does someone maintain or recreate their self-concept? What are the practical things one can do (after the ‘drop’) to move on? I believe it comes down to what we believe about ourselves. Who am I? Are my behaviors in alignment with my core values, beliefs? Depending upon the answers from our self-reflection we can then decide what steps to take to overcome the consequences of “dropping the ball.” And to be sure, sometimes we suffer as victims the consequences from the behavior of others who have “dropped the ball.” To reorient to our purpose or vision in life in these situations can be just as important as it is if we were the one who “dropped the ball.”
As a coach, I practice integrative coaching. Integrative coaching includes creating a vital plan and following a process designed to make one whole or complete. Integrative coaching is the organization of various traits, feelings and attitudes into one harmonious personality. This is the Heart of our well-being for in being whole we have the best opportunity to move from aspects of disintegration (being stuck, disoriented, uncertain, confused and - for some of us- those who have “dropped the ball”), to integration and personal transformation.
Simply stated, transformation means change. While I do not know what transformation may entail for you personally, I do believe that each of us is designed for greatness and sometimes we need help and practical encouragement to return to our greatness or perhaps to experience it for the first time. I look forward to helping you become the best you can be.
October 10th, 1970.The 1969 University of Washington Football team had a dismal record of 1-9. That means one win and nine losses! But this was 1970 and the coaches had revised our offensive scheme to be a pro-style with a balance between passing and running the ball. In fact, in our season opener against Michigan State, our first offensive play was a pass from our sophomore quarterback, Sonny Sixkiller to me, Ace Bulger, senior tight end, for 11 yards and a first down. The crowd went wild because we had demonstrated the change of offense from a “three yards and a cloud of dust” and rather boring veer offense to our pro-style offense which made for a very exciting brand of football. We went on to beat Michigan State 42-16. In the following two non-league games we defeated Idaho and lost a close exciting game to Michigan 17-3. It was time for our first league game against the California Golden Bears. Husky fans were excited and anticipating the possible return of the glory days or former championship “smash-mouth’ Husky football. It was also the decade of the 70’s with lots of civil unrest, disgruntlement with the Vietnam war and massive protests nationwide. Seattle was ready for something distracting, fun and exciting.
Our weekly routine included a Sunday evening review of the previous game and a prep talk for the upcoming opponent. Our head coach, Jim Owens told us that the Pac 8 was going to be a very difficult conference and that he did not necessarily expect the eventual champion to go undefeated. But he emphatically stated one thing for sure, “we aren’t going to lose to California!”
California got off to a good start and at one point in the first half lead 21-0. We regained our focus and were successful in mounting a fantastic comeback. Late in the game, we were still down to 28-31, but we were moving ball almost at will and had positioned ourselves on the Cal 9-yard line with 3rd and inches to go for a first down. Our right tackle moved too soon and we received a five-yard penalty which made it 3rd and a little over five yards for a first down. We tried a pass which fell incomplete which left us with 4th down and five yards to go for a first down on California’s 14-yard line. We decided not to try a field goal to go for what would have tied the game but rather decided to go for it.
We called a pass play. At the snap of the ball, there was a furious pass rush and Sonny was scrambling off to his right trying to avoid being sacked. I was not the primary receiver but it was obvious the play had broken down and I maneuvered to the open spot on the field where Sonny saw me and threw the ball towards me with a high arching pass. The Cal linebacker, Phil Croyle, was badly out of position and I could see him sprinting towards me. I thought he might get to the ball before I did and that he might intercept it, so as I approached the ball I was prepared to try to jump up and over him to catch it. As it turned out, he was a fraction of a second too late and all he could do was to desperately swipe his hand at me and the ball. The whole play both seemed to take forever and at the same time seemed intensely fast. I jumped up to catch the ball, it hit me in the hands, and I dropped it! We lost to California.
That next Monday I had been demoted to 2nd team and had to run hills after practice. A bummer.
For whatever reasons, for Husky football fans, that game and one dropped pass stuck in their memory for decades. It was over thirty years later in the early 2002 or 2003 where I attended a small private wedding in Seattle in the Smith Tower, when I was standing in the reception line to meet the District Court Judge who had just performed the wedding ceremony. When I introduced myself he gasped and said, “Ace Bulger! I have been wondering about how you have been doing ever since the California Game!” This is just one example: It would be difficult for me to remember how many times people who are complete strangers to me have brought up that dropped pass as soon as I told them my name.