The Fear Of Failure

By: 03.08.11  •  26 Comments
Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady (photo. Marc Morrison)

Flashes. Those are all that’s left. All you can remember. And it really sucks because the good memories are supposed to last forever, even if all you see now is an older guy with a chubby upper body, shooting flat jumpers on a team going nowhere.

But man, this collage of words isn’t even about Tracy McGrady. T-Mac just so happens to have become the face for the millions of others who remain nameless in this piece.

Really, the only thing I want out of all this technology, all of this science that will push forward until it ultimately kills us, is for someone to say they have the brain figured out. That’s all I want. It’ll never happen. But I want to dig inside and find out why people act the way they do, make the choices they make and how exactly people deal with wasted talent. That’s the saddest thing of all.

I’ve been reading the recently-released book Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Marty Dobrow that follows six minor leaguers in their quest to finally make the big leagues. It’s a story about family, about the ugly, business side of sports and about daily, 8-hour bus rides from Reading, Pa. to Pawtucket, R.I. and everything in between. But most importantly, it’s about dreams, undying fear and a love for a game.

You read about these characters that sacrifice friendship, security and the luxuries of starting a family to pursue a lifelong dream that refuses to happen. Their dedication and will can be mind-boggling; their naivety can be troublesome.

It reminded me. There was a lot written this weekend on Tracy McGrady and unclaimed potential. At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, basically a meeting of all of the greatest basketball stat-nerds and bloggers, both former Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said McGrady never became what he should’ve been. “Freakish” talent they called it, almost so talented that it hurt him. But terrible practice habits, they said.

What makes a guy like Doug Clark, a former baseball player profiled in the book, spend almost a decade in the minor leagues, making as much money as some high-school part-time jobs, to ultimately appear in 14 major league games whereas other athletes just don’t care? Is there such a thing as being too talented? And when do we reach that point?

The only limit to success is your desire. I hear and read that all the time. Every once in a while, I slow down for a second and think. Is that really true? You hear it so much that it has become a cliché.

What exactly causes one player to back down while another rises? Think about all of the times when you wanted something so bad, knew you wanted it, your head was telling you that you wanted it, but yet you couldn’t bring yourself to do what you had to. You couldn’t work hard enough, or couldn’t speak up. I’m not even talking about just sports.

Sometimes, you know your problem. It eats away at you because you can’t help it. You realize what you have to do to make changes and yet, everything in your world stays the same. It’s not really destiny but sometimes it feels that way. Maybe it’s fear that causes this. A fear of failure.

I’m sorry if this piece may leave more questions than answered ones. Selfishly, everyone wishes McGrady cared just a little bit more. Yes, the injuries weren’t entirely his fault. But it still feels like he didn’t take complete advantage of the time he had. I’m sure Doug Clark did everything he possible could to earn himself a major-league check. But will he too ultimately think, “I didn’t do enough?”

Was this always the plan for Tracy McGrady? Everything that he had going for him, to end up like this? I know many fans will automatically assume he doesn’t care or else he would’ve done something about it.

But I don’t think that’s true. He does care. There’s just something else that always held him back. You want to feel bad for McGrady, but you don’t. You feel bad for the millions of people out there just like him, just like you and I, with squandered talent, with a fear of something you can’t see.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

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