The Important Difference

Barber, Red


  • Red Barber talks about the spirit of the athlete and how this exemplifies the importance of spirit in life.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Almost as much of an institution in American life as the Brooklyn Dodgers whose ups and downs he faithfully reports, Walter Lanier Barber is a thoughtful Southerner more familiarly know to millions of sports fans as "Red." Here is Red Barber's play-by-play account of his beliefs.
The work given me to do in the past 20-odd years has been in the world of muscles. The athlete must possess speed of foot, sharpness of vision, strength of limb, and he must have a nervous system that coordinates his physical faculties; yet as the years
have rolled their tense athletic struggles before my microphones, I have become increasingly aware that the athlete is a man of muscles and reflexes, yes, but that he is also something else. And this something else is the dominant factor in the successful equation. It is the quality that makes any human great or else brings him down to his knees in defeat. It is the quality that separates man from the other forms of life on this Earth. It is the fact that man is a spiritual being.
It is my observation that the great athlete is always a person of tremendous spirit. It is the spiritual part of him that controls his living, training, and working routines. How does an athlete think? What does he believe? Does he have the will power to practice and practice, until he masters the skills of his profession? Does he have the disposition to fit into the team and to work for the
team's success? Does he play his best every inning of every game and hang on and keep swinging and running and sliding with all his might right down to the last out, no matter what the score? Does he have personal mastery of himself, so that he remains in fit condition? Can he withstand prosperity, or does it go to his head?
When I first came up to the major leagues in Cincinnati, I heard an old baseball scout, Bobby Wallace, talking about how he evaluated a ball player that he was interested in purchasing. In this case, he was talking about a pitcher. I've never forgotten two points that he made. He said it was easy, of course, to see what and how good was the pitcher's stuff on the mound, but that he would have to know the man's living habits off the field before he'd recommend his purchase; and second, he would not pass favorably
on the pitcher until he saw him pitch when he was getting beat. In other words, the scout would need to examine the pitcher when he was losing, and then if he kept on bearing down, that was his man.
Dr. Jack Sutherland, when he was head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh, told me that, of course, he wanted physically strong football players, but that first he had to know how those players thought. Sutherland said that if a boy didn't think right, he could do little with him or for him. Ty Cobb's flaming spirit set his body on fire and kept him amazingly competitive, year after year, record after record. Ben Hogan, in his recent golfing comeback after having his body shattered, is a tribute to his spiritual worth in that he forced himself to fight back.
I firmly believe, then, that it is the spiritual that makes the important difference. Even in the world of brawn, it is how a man thinks that matters. I believe each of us must realize that he is driven and directed by his spiritual self, and that each of us must place his reliance on things spiritual. I have found that the Christian religion is the best source of spiritual strength for me, as I puzzle and grapple in my own way with the mysteries of where we came from; who are we; what are we doing on this Earth; and where do we go when this particular race is run?
There the creed of Red Barber, CBS sports director, active citizen, and a man who has learned a battery of valuable truths from the sandlots and stadia of this country.