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Do We Need More Than Just Mens et Manus?

By Yong-yi Zhu


Looking at MIT, it seemed perfect, Mens et Manus: Mind and Hand. We can conquer the world with just these two things. Take MIT students, for example. We not only have the brainpower to do our problem sets, but we are able to survive physically the all-nighters and the constant sleep deprivation. Of course, the sports world is no different. If you had the physical talent and the mental smarts, you could excel at any sport. What I wondered was whether we needed more than that.

The thing that made me think hard about this happened a couple of weeks ago, less than a week before Christmas. As I sat watching football in those joyous times, there was a news report that Brett Favre’s father had passed away. At first, nothing took me by surprise because I’m used to hearing about deaths on TV. However, once I realized that the Packers were going to play on Monday night, I thought twice.

The Packers were in the middle of the playoff hunt, playing an Oakland Raider team that had some weapons to use in the role of spoiler. If Favre didn’t play, the Packers would not only miss his leadership but also miss his 45,131 career passing yards and his 341 touchdown passes. Yet amidst all the gaudy statistics that Favre had accumulated for himself, there was one that stood out far and above the rest: the streak. Up to that point, Favre had started 204 straight games; that’s 12 straight seasons without missing a start, 12 years without missing a day of work. It seemed like now was the time to sit and mourn for the death of his father. In a way, the fact that his father would be the reason to stop the streak seemed fitting. Favre’s father had begun Brett’s football career; Irvin was Brett’s high school coach.

So what did Favre do? Not only did he not sit the game, but Brett Favre did the complete opposite of what everyone expected he would do. But then again, we should know better than to expect less from Favre.

Favre came out smoking, throwing for four touchdowns in the first half. Afterwards, he said that the reason he played was because his father would have wanted him to. And his father definitely would have wanted Brett to lead his team into the playoffs.

I felt emotional just watching that game. It takes talent to win a football game. It takes smarts to pick apart a defense. It takes heart to win with extreme pain. Sure, I saw heart being used to perfection during that game, but was it appreciated as it should be?

In this day and age, we often take results much more seriously than we take effort. Losing a game is usually seen as failure, even if the players played their hearts out.

Many times, our sports teams are ridiculed for consistently losing. What we often forget is that there are individuals behind those teams who truly want to achieve. We merely judge a team by the record at the end of the season. Sports have an easy way of measuring winning and losing; life is very different since failure to one may be success to another. Yet we continue to measure people by the results. Millionaire and you have it all: brains, brawn, and heart; without that, you’re without respect.

But I wonder, had Brett Favre not thrown those four touchdown passes, and not won the game, would we have felt as much respect for his performance? We would be second-guessing his decision to start the game. It was a respectable move, but then, we would not find it so logical. Maybe it is time to re-evaluate the way we judge success and failure. Maybe it’s time to rethink our motto. Instead of simply mind and hand, we should value mind, hand, and heart.