This is going to be somewhat of a Tuesday quick hit, but I need to point out something which happens far too often with the media in our country. The media took an opportunity on Monday to highlight Clemson University’s football team’s visit to the White House, but there was only one big problem… They focused all their attention on the wrong thing.
All the talk from the major media outlets was centered on the burgers and fries spread President Trump had catered for the football players. At this very moment the front page of Fox News’ website has a story from Reggie Bush talking about how “disrespectful” the food was. Quite honestly it doesn’t matter and we shouldn’t care. The media did as they often do and they wasted an opportunity to talk about the real story from Clemson’s trip to the White House — Dabo Swinney’s speech.
I am not a Clemson football fan and I only know of Coach Swinney’s leadership through what I’ve heard on ESPN, however, the nation could have learned a lesson in class and leadership yesterday had the real story been pushed to the front pages of the major media outlets instead of Trump’s catering techniques. I give Swinney credit for his leadership in not turning his team’s trip to the White House into a huge debacle the way some sports teams have in the past, but that is not actually the point of this article. The class Coach Swinney showed yesterday came in the act of his speech when he quoted the late Purdue fan Tyler Trent.
Tyler Trent was the 20 year old Purdue sports super-fan who captivated the sporting world with his encouraging message and optimism over the past few months as he battled osteosarcoma. Tyler’s message inspired the giving of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the research of his rare form of cancer, and he was given the 2018 “Walt Disney Wide World of Sports Spirit Award.” Tyler Trent died on New Years Day 2019.
On Monday, as Swinney closed out his White House address he quoted Tyler saying:
“I want to close and I really want to give this perspective to our team, and really anyone who is listening, this is a quote, the whole college football world was captured by Tyler Trent-He was the Purdue football fan that was battling cancer. Probably saw that, and he just passed recently. And here’s what he said, he put out a quote: ‘Though I am in hospice care and have to wake up every morning knowing that the day might be my last, I still have a choice to make, to make that day the best it can be. Yet, isn’t that a choice we all have every day? After all, nobody knows the amount of days we have left. Some could say we are all in hospice to a certain degree. So why don’t we act like it.’
“‘So why don’t we act like it? Where is your gratitude? With Christmas coming up, what are you thankful for? I had to write my will recently, and I’m just thankful I can give my family Christmas presents, maybe even for one last time. Let’s not forget that my doctors gave me three months to live almost two-and-a-half months ago. So why can’t we live grateful lives? Why can’t we make every day count like it’s the last?’ “So for this team and all you guys moving on and even the guys coming back, that’s what I would say, is go live and be great today, in order for your someday to become reality, you just got to be your best today.”
With all the noise in today’s culture I believe Swinney was coaching us all yesterday to make sure we choose carefully what messages we decide to listen to, because those messages will effect the actions we take and the people we become. The media chose to make a comedic point about some burgers, and many Americans will choose to listen to that as they continue to take the bait which drives us further away from common-ground. Conservatives will defend Trump’s American food choices while liberals will mock him for being “disrespectful,” and this is sad, because the real message that should be pushed to the forefront is Tyler Trent’s message, and Dabo Swinney’s leadership in proclaiming this message.
Well, I’m not gonna fall for it and neither should you. Tyler taught us life may seem long but it is truly short; The Bible says “it is like a mist.” So Tyler wanted us to act like it. His message was to find what has actual meaning and value and then go live for that! Tyler understood that death is real, and in one of Tyler’s final speeches I remember hearing him say “you just gotta have faith.” Tyler knew life is like a mist, death is real, and faith is necessary. What we should all know is the reason Tyler was able to proclaim a message of gratitude, even in his dying days, is because Tyler knew he was a sinner who offered nothing redemptive in and of himself, but Jesus loved him and gave him everything he needed. This is why at his funeral the preacher said, “Tyler would have wanted today to be all about Jesus.” Tyler wanted us all to live each day for what truly matters and what is truly valuable, and for him that meant living to make much about Jesus rather than about himself or trivial concerns . What exactly is it that you are living for? When others see your actions and your attitudes what would they say you see as truly valuable? Thank you to Coach Swinney for the classy leadership of intentionally pausing so we can all ponder Tyler’s message and ask this question of ourselves, and now I hope we will all consider Tyler’s point rather than trivially arguing over some burgers n fries.