Witten came back from a spleen injury to help lead the Cowboys over the World Champion Giants in the first game of the year. His toughness, dedication and grit were an inspiration to the team—much like the injured Willis Reed in game 7 of the NBA championship in 1970, beating my beloved Lakers. Witten said he was inspired by a meeting with the Navy SEALS in San Diego during training camp. He hung a section of their oath, with slight variations, above his locker as an inspiration:
I will NEVER Quit! I persevere and thrive on adversity. My team expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down I will get back up every time! I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to help my team and to accomplish our goal. I am NEVER out of the fight!
It occurred to me that this was very similar to how I felt as a little guy, always getting back up in football or boxing, proud to endure adversity and thereby prove my mettle even if I was getting pummeled. I was happy even if getting beat up as long as I didn’t quit. Why? I wrote:
It showed that I was a man. I could take a hit—and occasionally give one. This taught me a lot about life, since we often have to take more hits than we give—and we have to live and learn from it. Early on, I learned that we will lose many times in our lives. Our dreams of championships and glory will come true only rarely; often we will get beat up, run over, mashed, stepped on, stiff-armed, bruised, and shoved aside in life. Yet we can endure, get up again, and nobly continue—like a character in a Faulkner novel. "They endured."
This gave me a feeling of maturity and confidence. I could take the blows (and the failures and the disappointments) and realize that didn’t mean my life was over (or worthless). I could get up again—to fight another day! This in itself was a victory—to endure and to take the field of battle again tomorrow. That’s why I was happy even when getting pummeled. It showed I could take it….
I’m proud to have been in the company of the SEALS and the Cowboys, even as a little tyke. And, while fully acknowledging that women can be SEALS (and may eventually make it in the NFL), I still think these warrior attitudes and and these kinds of dreams and goals are revealing of a noble quality more natural to manhood.
As Jack Dempsey once said: “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” That’s a real man! And that manhood is epitomized in Christ’s three falls on the Way of the Cross.
I think women show the same virtues (strength, faithfulness, endurance, courage, readiness to fall in battle, getting up time and again) in their own unique way--epitomized by our Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross. But it is highly appropriate that it was a man, Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry his cross while it was a woman, Veronica, who wiped his face. Despite extraordinary examples (and saintly calls) like that of Joan of Arc, which prove that women too can have this direct warrior spirit, I think it is more appropriate and more natural to men--despite the fact that every action movie or TV series now is routinely required to have one or more "tough-guy" warrior women in the mix, usually more hard-nosed than the men. I think this is not a true picture of reality.