When I was growing up, passion was a religious/theological term for the final agonizing days of Jesus Christ. I didn’t know what it meant, but it didn’t seem to be something you would want happening to you unless you were thinking about becoming a Saint by throwing yourself under the bus for God.
Somewhere in my teenage years, I became acquainted with the more common meanings of this word. But due to my Christian upbringing, this new meaning still had some negative connotations to it and was something that needed to be repressed or controlled.
Then I got into college and was exposed to art and how these artso fartso guys had a passion for life. Suddenly, the word had turned 180 degrees in connotation and was now a good thing to have. Zesty, so to speak. Spunky, even.
As you can imagine, I then fully embraced this word and stretched it to cover all the hedonistic and bacchanalian extravaganzas I could muster in the pursuit of good times, baby. It became my alibi for aberrant, anti-social behavior. Like, I’m just a passionate sort of guy. Wink, wink.
At any rate, I eventually settled down and started paying taxes and the other dues that go with the drudgery of adulthood, and passion finally settled upon its current definition of emotional enthusiasm for whatever you’re focused on doing. More or less. Don’t quote me.
I bring this up because passion has been in the news this past week, vis a vis Jay Cutler. At first, Cutler was F-bombed for not being a tough guy and gutting out the game against the Packers last Sunday after he hurt his knee. As the news trickled out that the injury was a bit debilitating and his coaches, not he, had taken him out of the game, the wimp accusation throwers began to spin their initial comments as really meaning that Cutler lacked a “passion” for the game.
I’ve never been a Cutler fan, so this whole storm didn’t suck me in much. I had no passion for it. In fact, as all the comments poured in about Cutler’s facial expressions, his posture on the sidelines, and his seeming lack of any disappointment at not being able to finish the game, I could not help but think about Alex Smith.
The criticisms of Cutler are pretty much the same ones fans of the 49ers have been voicing about Smith for the past few years. Too day at the office sort of guy. His stats and those of Shaun Hill are pretty similar, yet Hill throws his helmet on the ground when he’s benched and Smith just takes a seat and picks his nose. Maybe he will frown a bit, but nothing more. Hill is popular, Smith is not.
It’s often said that you need a passion for the game to succeed in the NFL. Jim Brown got by without it, but not many others. If you don’t have passion, you better take a course in body language and learn how to fake it, or fans will never like you, even if you are the second string QB and the starter is stinking up the joint.
Being popular is not the same as being liked, mind you. Jay Cutler will never be liked. But if he wins the Super Bowl, he will most certainly be popular. After all, take it from Mr. Lombardi, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.