FOOD FOR THOUGHT | David Wilson
Originally published in Eternity On-LineTuesday 2 July 2013
Leadership issues have been front and centre in the media over the past week and in the furore of what’s been going on in Canberra you could be forgiven for missing a positive story about character and leadership and family.
An article in The Age last week demonstrated a father’s unconditional love for his son. It also highlighted several leadership characteristics based on some deep-seated values that Canberra would do well to emulate. I’m talking about Tim Watson and his love for his son, Jobe.
Tim Watson is the Channel 7 Sports anchor and is a past Captain of the AFL’s Essendon team. He is one of Essendon’s favourite ‘sons’. Tim’s son, Jobe is the current Captain of Essendon and the holder of the 2012 Brownlow medal as the best and fairest player last year. But Jobe is caught up in the so called ‘drugs scandal’ haunting the AFL (and in particular Essendon Football Club) and came out recently admitting that one of the drugs he was given last year—an anti-obesity drug—has been placed on the banned list and is not cleared for human consumption. Jobe’s confession was filled with the humility that we have come to expect of this exceptional sportsman.
Image: Flickr under a CC licence, Rich in Kensington: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35671979@N04/
Since then there have been cries to ban Jobe Watson from playing and even suggestions he should hand back his Brownlow Medal. Essendon’s response is that the story can’t be told while the investigation is continuing, though they are confident that when the whole story does come out, the Essendon players will be exonerated. As a one-eyed Essendon supporter, I hope that’s true!
So, that’s the background. Tim Watson was interviewed by his Channel 7 colleagues about his son’s confession. In the interview, he spoke of the possibility of the Brownlow being handed back. The Age reported it in the following words:
Watson appeared to be close to tears after he watched footage detailing the events of the week, that included his son being booed throughout Thursday night’s game between Essendon and West Coast in Perth.
“To me the Brownlow doesn’t define Jobe, and I’m talking as a father now,” said Watson. “We didn’t love him any more because he won the Brownlow and we wouldn’t love him any less if he lost the Brownlow.
“If that happens, we have two choices: he goes and wins another one, or Rob Harvey’s got two and I know where Rob lives and maybe we can take one of Rob’s.”
Take a moment to note the values that lie behind this father talking about his son. Here’s what I can see: Identity formation, unconditional love, moving on in life, and equality of distribution.
Identity formation: Watson points out that this is not about his son’s identity. Sport is sport and it must never become more than that. It especially must never be seen to define who I am as a person. When we mistake performance identity (how well I do at something) with personal identity (who I am as a person) we are setting ourselves up for some serious problems. There is an epidemic of this in Western society. The Judeo-Christian approach is that ‘personhood’ is discovered in the Bible. Our performance does not define us; instead we are defined by our nature as human beings and our character as individuals in relational community. Watson got it right: the Brownlow does not, and should not, define Jobe as a person.
Unconditional love: Watson says that the winning and the losing of a sports award has nothing to do with his love for his son. How many kids long to hear that from their dads? In a ‘former life’, I was involved in counselling people who were in our gaol system because of drug related crimes and I would often hear about their cries for unconditional love. They didn’t necessarily call it that but that’s what they were describing to me. Again, the Judeo-Christian ethic highlights the importance of such love. The Greek word Agape, used to describe God’s love for humans and the highest call of humans love in relationships, is a love that has no conditions imposed on it. Again, Watson got it right and I think Jobe is a lucky man to have a father like him.
Handling disappointment: When life kicks us hard, we have different choices before us. One of those choices is to pick ourselves up and move on, to get on with the job of life. This is what is being proposed by Tim Watson. If my son loses the medal it will be a great disappointment, no denying that, but the rest of his life is out there for the taking and he will get on with it instead of letting the disappointment define his future. This reminds me of the Bible’s teaching when it records James (one of Jesus’ brothers) as saying that hard times should be allowed to produce perseverance because that’s what character and maturity is built from (James 1:2-4).
Equal distribution of what we have: Robert Harvey (a past AFL star footballer) has two Brownlow medals. ‘He needs to learn to share’ is essentially what Watson is suggesting. Yes, what a great idea! OK, OK, I know I’m taking it too far and that Watson was only joking on this one…
In this interview we catch a glimpse of the home environment that Jobe Watson was privileged to grow up in. It’s refreshing and it’s also a challenge. All our kids and grandkids need to have that sort of home environment: they thrive in it. But these characteristics need to be applied to leadership in all sectors of society.
Imagine a world based on prizing people for who they are rather than how well they perform, and on unconditional love expressed as acceptance and respect no matter what they are like on the outside, and seeped in encouragement and support to persevere through the hardest of times. Now there’s a society to be proud of. Tim Watson for Prime Minister?
Food for thought.
Dr David Wilson is Director of Sophia Think Tank and an avid Essendon supporter.