It’s one of the slowest times of the year in the College. We graduated a bunch of students in early August. Fall classes don’t start for another week. And, it’s too early for the new faculty we welcome to the College this week to get into the kind of mischief that requires my attention. So, with the pennant races in full swing, my mind tends to wonder a bit this time of year…
What drives me crazy about my Detroit Tigers is that they know they are going to win their division and make the playoffs. This is how a team that has the last three Cy Young Award winners, the reigning ERA champ and a boat-load of hitting (Cabrera, Martinez, Kinsler, etc., etc.,) is only a dozen games over .500 this time of year. This also is how after a perplexing loss where the team doesn’t hit a mediocre pitcher, or one of those premium pitchers gives up eight runs in one inning, or they drop three out of four to a Yankee team held together by duct tape that someone like Max Scherzer will say: “That’s just baseball. Weird things happen over a long season. We are not worried. We have a very good team that knows how to win.”
What I want Max to say is: “I know everyone loses sixty and wins sixty during a baseball season, but it tears my heart out when we lose games like this. I want to win every game and we need to get better to challenge Oakland in October.” That no Tiger talks like this, tells me they are comfortable: too comfortable. The divisional competition just isn’t much of a challenge. The Sox, Royals, Indians and Twins fail to sharpen the Tigers’ edge. The resulting complacency is how the best team in baseball over the last five years has no World Series wins to show for it.
The cost of being comfortable is that you aren’t pushed to reach your full potential until you come up against someone almost as talented, but more tested by fire and hungrier than you. When that happens, you lose.
I worry about this happening to our best UCF students too. They run the risk of confusing the local competition with the global competition. It is up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen. The cost of not sufficiently challenging our students is that they fall short of their potential, think they are better prepared than they really are and find surprise when they run up against more battle tested and hungry competition. Better we make them uncomfortable when they are with us than after they leave.