Steelers 5 time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison hasn’t been handed anything. He wasn’t considered good enough to get a scholarship right away to Kent State, not a football powerhouse, he had to make the team first as a walk on. He wasn’t drafted by an NFL team and was cut by the Baltimore Ravens, went to Europe to play and eventually as any football fans knows came back stateside and has had a stellar career in Pittsburgh with two Super Bowl rings. The veteran is now battling for a starting job.

All this is paramount in understanding Harrison’s Instagram message earlier this week that he was throwing out his sons, ages 6 and 8, participation trophies. As he stated, ” I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy.” For a man who has earned it on the field from college to the pros, and even with his All-Pro credentials is again having to earn it in preseason camp, it has resonated loud and strong in print and talk shows all week.

Would Harrison be offended by the observation his alma mater isn’t considered a traditionally strong program or he has no guarantee for this season? No and No. His stance against the political correct, ‘I’m sorry, no I’m sorry as well,” society is to be applauded on many levels.

There is something special about winning an award, emphasis only on winning. You did something on that day, in that season, in your lifetime that made you standout. It isn’t about just showing up, there’s too many doing just that these days and getting recognized for it, especially at a young age, only contributes to an entitlement thinking country getting out of hand with handing out.

Last week boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard sat across from me in Montreal for an Inside MMA interview. His still youthful face glowed in reflecting on winning an Olympic title in that city in 1976. Forever and always a Gold Medalist. No qualifying required, you know it’s earned and special and very few even outstanding athletes get one.

How it all began, this “everybody is special” and “everybody gets an award” is not exact, sometime in the recent decade. Harrison’s stand hopefully will, if not bring an end to the silliness, at least curtail it somewhere in some league where a few parents are still instilling values of working hard to earn something. EARN, all capitalized the way Harrison sent it out this week.

Can you imagine Dana White after announcing the post UFC fight night awards, adding that he wants all the fighters back in the octagon to get their trophy for just being there? How about a big hand for everyone who got beat up in less than a minute, come on make them feel they are still special.

In a less than scientific theory, the growth of MMA can be attributed to the fact that if the athletes don’t fight they don’t get paid. They have to really earn a living without guaranteed contracts and limited endorsements deals for the vast majority. That and the rawness of the sport and emotions evoked from that are all things not PC. Maybe even the PC-ers are a little disgusted with how everyone’s opinion should count. No, open the cage put two fighters in there and let’s watch, we’ll charge our electric cars up later and slap a new Coexist bumper sticker on it tomorrow.

A few days ago a man who has not been spared controversy in the past, and has worked to beat the odds to be one of the best at what he does, made a declaration. Every parent and coach in youth leagues and school programs should have to study it and consider the consequences of what will be for those who are taught just being there makes them exceptional.


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