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In sports, most coaches emphasize the importance of fundamentals because they know when situations in a game become difficult, when the pressure is at its greatest, when things are going wrong, athletes must fall back on their fundamentals, must rely on their basic techniques to succeed. The athletes who abandon their fundamentals when times get tough, when the pressure is on, fail.


On January 6, 2021, protesters at a Trump rally abandoned their fundamentals when the pressure was on, when emotions were high, when times were tough, and they failed. They failed miserably. Those people who rioted at the Capital divorced themselves from the very fundamentals, the core principles they claim to believe in. And the consequences for the themselves, and more importantly the nation have been grave.


We must act under the belief that everything we say or do will be viewed and judged in a vacuum. No context will ever be given. In the NFL, we tell our players, they always get the second guy. The first guy pushes, shoves, punches, but the second guy, the guy who swings back, gets the 15-yard penalty or is ejected from the game. His action was viewed in a vacuum, no context was given. He punched. He’s gone. “The other side was doing it, too” will never be proper justification for doing what we know is wrong, never.


As I have pondered all the events of the last year, and contemplate the prospects of the next four years, a poem kept coming to mind. It was written in 1895 by English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, and it is called, If. When I went back and read the poem again, it was as if Kipling was so prophetic that he was writing about the year 2021. There are some very important insights, we can all take away from that poem, and there are lesson that are still applicable today. I will highlight the most relevant ones.


“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”


“Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, or being hated, don’t give way to hating.”


“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.”


“Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.”


“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone,

and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”


“If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much.”


“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”


As the good book says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Human beings are human beings. We just use smartphones instead of a telegraph.


What Kipling was saying is that when life gets tough, when the pressure is on, we cannot give up our core beliefs, our principles, our fundamentals.


No matter how much we believe the other side is doing it. We cannot deal in lies; we must live in the truth. We cannot deal in hate; we must show our fellow man love and respect. We cannot play the victim; we must play the victor. We cannot discount our fellow man, even the ones who have discounted us.


And most importantly, we cannot divorce ourselves from the very principles that we believe in, that are the foundation of our nation. No matter how difficult times will be, no matter what the other side is doing, we must never abandon our founding principles, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, peace, truth, justice, honesty, integrity, decency. Those are our fundamentals, our principles. Those are what we believe in. Those are what makes this country great, and our citizens proud. I would rather lose with my principles intact, than win with a corrupted soul.

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Judd Garrett is a former NFL player, coach and executive. He is a frequent contributer to the website Real Clear Politics, and has recently published his first novel, No Wind

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