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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Opportunity vs Outcome

I read a news article recently that initialed a very strong emotional response.  I was moved by the sadness of a missed opportunity.  The realization that so many times in life we are given an opportunity that if squandered will not be offered again.

Usually the football news this time of year has to do with coaches being let go and others being offered new positions.  Two teams are planning their strategy for the Super Bowl and the rest are lamenting their missed opportunities.  They can look forward to next year.  It could be said that no one has more regret this year Peyton Manning.  He and his Broncos thought they had a real shot at going to the big game.  But maybe next year for Manning and the Broncos, but not for another quarterback.

Two college quarterbacks were expected to be picked 1 and 2 in the 1998 NFL draft.  They both had been contenders for the Heisman Trophy.  The were both prolific passers and expected to be franchise players in the NFL.  Their stats were very close.  There was passionate discussion over who would be the number 1 pick.  The Indianapolis Colts held the first pick.  The San Diego Chargers traded their third overall pick, a future first round pick, a second round pick and three-time Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf to the Arizona Cardinals to improve their position.  No small price to pay for securing the second pick overall.

By the time of the draft the Colts had decided on Manning.  Although the Colts said it was not a significant factor in their final decision, the "interview no show" by the other quarterback was a harbinger of his work ethic.

Anyone who is at least familiar with football knows what kind of career Peyton Manning has had.  His name is all over the record books as well as a shoe in for a first ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.  The other quarterback, Ryan Leaf, had far from impressive career stats as well as a rocky relationship with coaches, teammates and the press.  The San Diego Chargers released him after only three wins in four years as a starter.  Leaf spent the remainder of his NFL career bouncing from Tampa to Dallas and finally Seattle.  During his brief career in the NFL, Leaf appeared in 25 games and made 21 starts. He completed 317 of 655 (48.4%) passes for 3,666 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. In 2010, the NFL Network listed Leaf as the number one NFL quarterback bust of all time.  He was married briefly to a Chargers cheerleader.

After the NFL, Leaf returned to college and ironically earned a degree in Media Relations.  He took an unpaid job as a volunteer coach with West Texas A&M University until he was suspended and resigned over a drug related incident.  The former NFL quarterback's criminal career started in 2009 with an indictment on burglary and drug charges and because of other unlawful activities was sentenced in 2012 to the Montana correctional system.  Leaf was being held in rehab facilities until he violated the conditions of his sentence.  This past Thursday Ryan Leaf was transferred to Montana State Prison where he will finish out his sentence.

When he was drafted into the NFL what did Ryan Leaf visualize for his future.  Would he have ever dreamed on that day in April 1998 he would end up addicted, disgraced and in prison.  Neither Ryan Leaf nor Peyton Manning will be playing in this year's Super Bowl.  Peyton will be watching with his family from a luxury box at the stadium. Ryan, if he is allowed to, will be watching from prison.

No air crew ever pushes back from the gate with any other expectation than a safe arrival at the destination.  Fortunately, a safe arrival is almost always the case.  However, in rare instances, the outcome is not good.  The aircraft ends up broken and the passengers and crew are injured or killed.  A missed opportunity.  An opportunity that will not come again.

Opportunity is an invitation to make a difference.  On each flight, there is only one opportunity for the crew to achieve a safe outcome.  Each flight is its own opportunity, but just like all valuable opportunities, once lost cannot be recaptured.

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