Find a way to win

If noth­ing else works, just give 110 per­cent

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Gary Smith Gary Smith is a re­cov­er­ing jour­nal­ist living in Rogers.

After much thought and re­view of the gen­eral mood of the na­tion, nay, the world, I’ve made a care­ful de­ci­sion about how I’m go­ing to pro­ceed. I’m go­ing to turn it up to 11.

OK, so, I’m not ex­actly sure about what “it” is. I mean, I un­der­stand the orig­i­nal ref­er­ence: the Rob Reiner cult clas­sic “This Is Spinal Tap,” a “moc­u­men­tary” about the tour-long dis­in­te­gra­tion of a doofy (Need­less Re­dun­dancy Alert) Heavy Metal rock band. In the film the lead gui­tarist is proud of the fact that, in­stead of stop­ping at 10 like most speak­ers, his went to 11. Be­cause … rock and roll.

If you’re not fa­mil­iar with the film, just in­vite any ran­dom group of 50-some­thing men over, give them a few beers and men­tion the ti­tle. They’ll re­cite all the di­a­logue, paus­ing to laugh hys­ter­i­cally at words or phrases that don’t make any sense, like, “Stone­henge,” or, “dozens of peo­ple spon­ta­neously com­bust every year. It’s just not widely re­ported.”

Want to make it a dou­ble fea­ture? Bring up “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and that an African Swal­low can carry a co­conut.

But back to the “11” thing. Given the state of the globe, I think I’m not just go­ing to turn it up to, you know. I’m go­ing to rip the nob off. That’ll show ’em! Be­cause that means I’m se­ri­ous! And that I’m aware 11 is right after 10, which is the sort of ba­sic math rule that none of my high school teach­ers fig­ured I knew.

And if that’s not enough, I’m go­ing to start play­ing like my hair is on fire. Which is se­ri­ous! And im­por­tant! And, is also an­other phrase I don’t re­ally un­der­stand. I mean, if I were play­ing, and my hair caught on fire, I’m pretty sure I’d be more con­cerned with putting out my hair than some stupid game.

Be­sides, what kind of id­i­otic con­test in­volves the pos­si­bil­ity that your hair would catch on fire? Team Vol­cano Bungee Jump­ing?

Ap­par­ently, in­stead of a movie, this phrase orig­i­nated with U.S. Navy avi­a­tors. Be­cause fly­ing with your hair on fire is a lot bet­ter than play­ing a game with your hair on fire. I guess…

If you’re stuck on a ship in the mid­dle of the ocean and you spend all day star­ing out at the hori­zon for en­ter­tain­ment, maybe some­thing like that makes a lot more sense.

Now, it’s be­come so ubiq­ui­tous, it’s find­ing its way into other pro­fes­sions. There’s hardly a sport where an­nounc­ers don’t fall back on it (“rook to e5! Kas­parov is mov­ing those chess pieces like his hair is on fire!), and, of course, it’s a sta­ple on mo­ti­va­tional posters (“Around here, we ac­count for those payables like our hair is on fire!”).

There’s even a book that sug­gests you should “Teach Like Your Hair is On Fire.” A note here: If your hair is, in fact, on fire, I think the first thing you want to teach some­one is how to put it out.

If tak­ing it to 11 or play­ing like my hair is on fire isn’t suf­fi­cient, I’m go­ing to start giv­ing 110 per­cent. Not 101 per­cent, mind you. Be­cause, while still math­e­mat­i­cally im­pos­si­ble, it’s not as good as 110 per­cent, which is … even more im­pos­si­ble, but sounds bet­ter.

Ques­tion: If I’m giv­ing 110 per­cent, would I still get beat by some­one giv­ing, say, 111 per­cent? How about (and this was very much a con­cern dur­ing my play­ing days) if I give 110 per­cent, but I’m just not very good? Would I just be mess­ing up a lot faster? Maybe, in that case, I should just give 50 per­cent and try to stay out of peo­ple’s way.

As I re­call, that was sort of the di­rec­tion I got from most of my foot­ball coaches. Right up there with the gen­tle re­minder that, “Smith, the only rea­sons you’re on the field right now is you’re too slow to jump off­sides and there’s a penalty for only play­ing with 10 peo­ple.”

And if none of that helps, I’m go­ing to work like there’s no to­mor­row (though, if it is de­ter­mined there ac­tu­ally is no to­mor­row, chances are I’m go­ing to take to­day off). I’m also not go­ing to ask if the mule is blind. I’m just go­ing to keep load­ing the wagon. Which, to be hon­est, makes “giv­ing 110 per­cent” sound like the The­ory of Rel­a­tiv­ity.

Be­cause the sun will come out to­mor­row ( un­less it’s cloudy), there’s no “I” in team ( though there is one in “win,” which, you would think, would be im­por­tant) and it ain’t over till it’s over.

And, in this case, mer­ci­fully, it is.

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