"The Credit Belongs To The Man Who Is Actually In The Arena"

Let Us Always Remember and Respect this Truth


There are truths, important and vital lessons that can never be emphasized enough.   

One of those truths is encapsulated beautifully, succinctly – almost perfectly – in a speech that former U.S. Pres. Teddy Roosevelt delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910.   Citizenship In A Republic is the name of the speech, and here the words within it that speak to an eternal truth and ever vitally important lesson: 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

My dad was so moved and impressed with these words that he put them on his business cards.

We will always have the critics and naysayers and the scoffers with us.   That is not going to change.   They have been there, I’m sure, when man was still living in caves and had just learned about fire.   They are with us in 2012.   They will be with us in 3012.

Peggy Noonan had a smart and insightful column that ran in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend in which she took up the notion of angry and mean conversation in the public space – and the reality that this conversation has long been with us.   As she rightfully explains, though, the problem is that today, technology is pushing the “attack” language at us 24/7 through a variety of devices. 

We can’t get away from it. 

Interestingly, in Ms. Noonan’s column, as evidence that politics has long been a “brutish” business, she cites the presidential election of 1800 that pitted Thomas Jefferson against John Adams.   Here is an excerpt from the column:  

Thomas Jefferson had one of his henchmen—excuse me, surrogates—accuse John Adams, in a series of newspaper essays, of being a “hideous hermaphroditical character,” a “strange compound of ignorance and ferocity, of deceit and weakness,” a “repulsive pedant.”

While reading this, I got to thinking about one of the coldest and rude written slaps of all time.  I wasn’t sure who said it about whom, but I remembered the line.  So I did a quick online search, and I found out it was something that John Adams wrote about Thomas Paine. 

And what did Mr. Adams write about Mr. Paine?  It wasn’t nice.  For Mr. Adams wrote that Mr. Paine was a “mongrel between pig and puppy, begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf.”

Oh my. 

Yet the thing is this – and our young people should especially be edified and counseled that, again, once more, and yet again, if you are going to accomplish something significant, to achieve something worthwhile, you are going to invite criticism.  

Also know that oftentimes the critic is someone who hasn’t tried or strived valiantly himself.   He is among, as Pres. Teddy Roosevelt described, among the “cold and timid souls.” 

Man oh man, early in the 2011 NFL season, even diehard New England Patriots fans would have thought a Super Bowl appearance was a very long shot.   The team’s defense was in disarray.   Our Pats simply did not look like a championship team. 

But with coach Bill Belichick commandeering and stewarding the planning and strategy, and with the Patriots trying and employing one personnel combination after another, New England made it to its fifth Super Bowl in 10 years.

So in the big game, New England loses in the final seconds against a team that just might have been better than it.   In the wake of the loss, the critics had it going on, were on a roll, and fed into unhealthy commentary and reflection.

These critics would have you think that Tom Brady and Wes Welker and members of the Patriot defense which couldn’t stop the Giants on their game-winning drive were deficient in moral character and toughness and poise and fortitude. 

Please.    It is just so wrong.  I mean really. 

The New England Patriots are a regional treasure.  

Watch closely this Jeremy Lin.   For those who aren’t sports fans, Jeremy Lin is the locus of something called “Linsanity,”

A brief on Mr. Lin:  he is the son of Taiwanese immigrants.   In his senior year (2005-06) year at Palo Alto High School, he just may have been the best prep point guard in California, and he lead his team to the California Div. II state championship title.  Yet not one NCAA Div. 1 program offered him a scholarship.  Lin went on to Harvard University where he was standout guard for the Crimson, and was a multiple All Ivy selection.

No NBA team selected Lin the league’s 2010 draft.   He did try out for squads and made the roster of the Golden State Warriors but was eventually waived.   He was given a shot with the Houston Rockets, and made the team, but again was waived. 

This past December the New York Knicks picked up Jeremy Lin.   Because of confluence of injuries and the Knick playing poorly, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni chose to give Lin game time and to even start him.  

Linsanity is launched. The kid has been tearing it up, scoring and dishing assists, and was the court leader.

I’m not going to go in depth into win streaks and all that.   Let’s just say, and this is the truth, that Jeremy Lin is out front and being the court leader on the  New York Knicks squad with superb basketball and winning play. 

And this is also vital.   eremy Lin has already acquitted himself as a champion.  So, no matter if he keeps on electrifying crowds, or if NBA analysis catches up to him and puts him back on his heels, Lin is a kid who is a winner and shows the path to winning and championship form. 

As well, here is what we should understand from all of this, for Jeremy Lin, and in the final analysis – is that the ultimate triumph and success and trophy is not often won in the first or second or third or fourth of the experts, but in the soul and gumption of those who know they have it no matter what the experts say. 

Screw the critics and the naysayers.  Go and venture into that arena and find the “great enthusiasm, the great devotions.”  You do this and you are a champion for all time, no matter what any scoreboard proclaims. 

You do this and give all of yourself and you are a champion, no matter what any critic speaks or writes.

The critic fades, the man in the arena is immortal. 





Neil Levine February 20, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Preisdent Roosevelt's speech is a great one. A copy of it hangs in the wall in my office. I read it every day. Well done Ross! Peace
Ross A. Muscato February 29, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Neil -- thank you very much for the comment and kind words. ross


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