When they met Madden was wearing a tee-shirt with the words, “Try Not to Suck,” a simple statement that might go a long way to explaining these mens’s philosophies to playing the game and their winning ways. Apparently both men bring a much less authoritarian control freak style to their teams than is traditional in their sports and both emphasize having fun and avoiding mistakes where in essence the players lose games to themselves.
Of course all of this is quite simplistic—but “try not to suck” doesn’t seem like a bad philosophy to me. Initially it seems like common sense and not all that difficult. And that is what makes it attractive and worth trying. Then you realize that trying not to suck is a commitment and an attitude and it takes concentration and self-discipline. As you try to master trying not to suck, you realize the importance of preparation and developing procedures or processes for all phases of your sport, other pursuit, or life in general. And once you have figured out what you need to do in a situation, you have to follow that process.
Anyone who has watched much football has definitely seen this scenario: a receiver is suddenly wide open and the football pass is right on target. But instead of making a routine catch and then beginning a heroic run to the goal line, the receiver drops the ball as he fails to direct sufficient attention to catching—thinking instead about that great run to come or perhaps an advancing defender. Maybe if the player was consciously trying not to suck, he would have reminded himself before the start of the play to prioritize his concentration and avoid distraction and so made the catch.
I can’t say we ever had a clever edgy name for our philosophy of being ready for business at Redbud Creek Farm, but trying not to suck certainly describes what we do, indeed what we have to do, as we deal with so many factors over which we have no control.
Does trying not to suck have relevance for the gardener? I think so.
Everyone desires immediate satisfaction from their plantings. Instead of hoping for miracles and being disappointed, I think folks will be a lot better off celebrating whatever good things are going on with their gardens while practicing basic good techniques of closely matching plants to their needs, providing adequate water and fertilizer, constantly upgrading the soil, and adopting successful weeding strategies. Trying not to suck does not have to mean that the garden will never be spectacular anymore than that a sports team which practices this philosophy will not perform with aplomb and win. It should mean that with a bit more concentration and doing things right on a regular basis that we will be in an even better position to achieve success in gardening and indeed all of our endeavors.
Many years ago I attended a wonderful university with a storied football program full of success. Sometime after I graduated a legendary successful coach installed a sign, “Play like a Champion Today,” where players would see it just before taking the field. Traditionally I love that philosophy, play like a champion, but I don’t think my new idea, try not to suck is opposed to it. To me they are linked; if we work in humility at trying not to suck—we might just get the exultation of playing like champions. Good luck!