Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thoughts on Independence Day

Independence Day. It seems to me that most people equate Independence Day with freedom. Funny thing is, that declaring one’s freedom usually only signifies the initiation of the struggle which usually accompanies the pursuit of such freedom.

When our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia two-hundred and thirty years ago today, that action did not signify the end of the Revolutionary War. That war would rage on for seven more years until 1783. The price of freedom, or independence is not cheap, and it must be paid for in advance.

Independence is not confined to military conflict however. Curt Flood was the central figure in the Free Agency movement in Major League Baseball. Flood had been traded by the St Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1969 season. Not wanting to play in Philadelphia, Flood refused to report to them. On Christmas Eve, in a letter to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Flood wrote:

"After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.

It is my desire to play baseball in 1970, and I am capable of playing. I have received a contract offer from the Philadelphia club, but I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decision. I, therefore, request that you make known to all Major League clubs my feelings in this matter, and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season."

King George, errrr Commissioner Kuhn flat out snuffed Flood’s request, citing the MLB “reserve clause” (which had been included in Flood's then-current contract). Flood responded with a $4.1 million lawsuit claiming that Major League Baseball had breached Federal antitrust laws. Talk about your tough battles. Not one single active Major Leaguer would testify on Flood’s behalf during his trial.

The case would go all the way to the Supreme Court, where the nation’s highest court sided with MLB. Flood would sit out the entire 1970 season and was eventually traded by the Phillies (for whom he never played) to the Washington Senators. Flood played 13 games for the Senators in 1971 before he eventually retired.

Curt Flood never realized free agency for himself, but he did pave the way. On December 23, 1975 (nearly six years to the day after Flood wrote his historic letter), Major League Baseball’s “reserve clause” was nullified in a decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz. That decision declared that pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally were eligible for free agency because they played an entire year without a contract.

Some would argue that free agency has ruined the game. Jerry Seinfeld would go on to say that we have been reduced to cheering for clothing (uniforms). Regardless of your own personal feelings on the matter, free agency is here to stay.

Last year, some friends of mine and I declared our own independence from working for “corporate America.” We had our own desire to "contract alliances and establish commerce" in the world of sports.

This was an easy decision for me to make. At the time I worked for a man who reminds me of Steve Carell’s character (boss Michael) on the NBC show “The Office.” Anyone who has ever seen the show should be able to feel my pain.

I did not get the pleasure of handing my immediate supervisor my letter of resignation in person; he decided to take a last-minute “business trip” back East. Conveniently, his trip took him to the same area where his family is from (AND is in the same neck of the woods where the fictional company, “Dunder Mifflin” from the aforementioned show “The Office” is located…COINCIDENCE??? I THINK NOT!).

They say that war is hell. Launching XXL NATIONAL has been a battle that has at times felt like hell. While we all declared our “independence” as we set out on our venture here, history should have told us that the battle was nowhere near won. Wars consist of many battles…some you win, some you lose.

One of my mentors used to tell me that “life has a way of giving you what you are willing to fight for.” Many of you have watched as we have worked our way towards our official launch. We have had some setbacks and have had our victories. Any avid football fan will tell you, “play till the whistle blows.”

Independence Day is about remembering the boldness that our forefathers had in seeking a better life for future generations. Perhaps professional athletes should look to Curt Floods “Christmas Eve letter” as an Independence Day of their own. Me? September 26, 2005 was mine. Just as our forefathers and Curt Flood did not look back, neither will this CEO.

Independence is one of those things in life that is worth fighting for. As they say at the Alma Mater of one of my partners (our CFO)…“FIGHT ON.”


At 9:13 AM, Blogger jrgtrain said...

Nice Blog. Very strong. I agree that there must be much fight and bloodshed for freedom.

When the war has taken its toll, we must regroup and have a new plan of attack.

Our backs against the wall, hope and will worn thin..... we must be relentless.

We must keep attacking, keep pounding, keep hoping. We must continue to scrap, claw and fight until we achieve victory.

To quote one of the greatest competitors of all time....

"Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

"There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that's first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don't ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win. "Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization — an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win — to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don't think it is.

"It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That's why they are there — to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules — but to win.

"And in truth, I've never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn't appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

"I don't say these things because I believe in the "brute" nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious."

Ron....it is time to WIN, WIN, WIN!!!!


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