Can you be "the best" and still be good?

Over the weekend the “fight of the century” happened between Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny “Pac-man” Paquiao. A seminal sports moment where you witnessed the best defensive boxer in the history of the sport close the books on THE only fight left that people wanted to see. The buzz behind the fight was so large that the announcers had to take the unprecedented step of filling time because the PPV system crashed trying to get all those households in to watch the fight (we can talk about the misteps from the PPV industry later). Top the night off with an estimated $500 million in potential revenue to be split between the two camps and you have a seemingly incredible evening.

Or do you?

The fight certainly didn’t live up to the hype, but how could it. Floyd Mayweather is a pugilistic alchemist who just isn’t there when you want to hit him, not very exciting to watch unless you love the sweet science. Manny is a violent boxer who couldn’t find Floyd to manifest his skillset.

My question however is different, Floyd will retire (if he keeps his word) a perfect 49–0 tying Rocky Marciano’s record — if I am a betting man, he takes one more fight because 50–0 is just too tempting. But for all his skill in the ring that translates into money, he just isn’t a very good man. In fact, very few people that possess a high skill level in any trade seem to be able to balance that idea of being the “best” and still being good.

In sports, the examples are seemingly countless, in just the last week Floyd Mayweather and his domestic violence issues resurfaced, Jon Jones (former UFC champ) was involved in a hit and run, and La’el Collins was passed over in the NFL draft because he is a person of interest in a murder.

That was last week.

Here is a list of the top 50 criminal athletes and every one of their brief descriptions illustrates how brilliant they were at said sport — and the horrible crime the committed despite it.

In politics, it gets even easier because we don’t have the hero complex we have about sports icons so we tend to drop the hammer on politicians immediately upon even a hint of wrongdoing. Last year Governor McDonnell of Virginia showed the state isn’t just “for lovers,” that it might also be for lovers who commit fraud, obstruction of justice, and take illegal gifts. Here is another fun list (from 2000 on) of all of the government officials acting on our behalf, that have gone astray.

On a more granular level, we all know someone who has ascended to a position of power only to cheat on his or her husband or wife, embezzle money, or just become a terrible person. Which leads me to the question at hand, can you be the “best” at something and still be good? Or is there a universal teeter-totter that attempts to keep it all in balance?

As a species, human beings are communal, we seek out groups of people and have since the beginning of time, but something happens to us as we ascend the ladder of success. It seems few, if any of us, are wired to be able to keep a work-life balance or even a perspective on what actually matters. Let’s get back to Floyd, he fights once or twice a year and is the highest paid athlete of all time. Imagine for a second if you made $138,000 a second as he did on Saturday night and you were not due back to work until September.

What would you do?

I would travel with my family and do some amazing things in my community or at least that is what I hope I would do. But don’t have that net worth, Floyd does, and Floyd has been involved with seven different physical assaults on five different women that ended in either an arrest or a citation, plus a list of other instances where the police were called and no one was charged. I am not making excuses for his terrible behavior but, what if our brains cannot actually manage that sort of opulence? What if we aren’t supposed to be that rich because it steps over a line that you cannot come back from?

In the past week the sports world, specifically the fighting sports world, has shaped that question for me. Jon Jones, the most dominate fighter in the history of MMA (sound familiar) was involved in his 4th run-in with the law and this time it was a hit and run accident that found a pregnant woman with a broken arm. Jon fled the scene, but not before he came back for a bunch of cash but left his pipe and rental car agreement in his car for law enforcement to find- just to keep it sporting. What is the Stan Lee quote?

“With great power, comes great responsibility”

Even in the Marvel universe those characters struggle with the gifts that human beings (even the mutant kind) can mentally manage. They say that success begets success and I know that to be true. But what if there was a limit? What if the idea is to spread it around? What if, and this is a big one, what if you are supposed to use your success to put everyone else first and you, last?

Maybe that is the secret. In every case you just read people put their needs and more dangerously, there wants ahead of their family, their community, or society at large. Perhaps that is the problem here. Too many mirrors in the ivory tower, when what they really need — are a few more ladders.

Eric HultgrenComment