Find a way to win
If nothing else works, just give 110 percent
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.