What is toughness?

Jan 26, 2011, 2:56 PM | Updated: 3:15 pm

In the wake of the Jay Cutler injury, his toughness/heart/desire/passion/tolerance/choice of stairs or elevators has been put into question.

We could argue all day long on whether the treatment of Cutler has been fair. I’m assuming you don’t need to read a balding, over-weight former high school athlete’s opinion to really put your opinion into perspective. I’m not saying this issue is as dividing as politics and the future of our country. I’m just pretty certain by this time all of us have our opinions on Jay Cutler.

The true debate on Cutler, however, should not be on whether or not Cutler is tough. I ask you to define toughness. We’ve all said, “That guy’s tough,” but what do we mean? Are you born tough? Does a parent, a coach or life instill toughness? The toughest question in our politically correct and soft society: how to mold tough kids during a time when lawsuits are around every corner?

Unfortunately, the line between toughness and stupidity can be very blurred. Grant Hill played an entire post-season series in Detroit with a stress fracture. He then missed 275 of his teams next 410 games. I say that shows toughness because he’s a professional athlete and gave every thing he had to his employer and teammates.

I tore my MCL in an alumni basketball game and came back in the game. I would say that is stupid because I was a married father with a health care deductible that I then had to pay. I put my own desire to win a meaningless game ahead of the needs of my family (can you tell I’m sucking up to my wife there since she was upset when I came limping back on the floor?).

Cutler doesn’t play with a torn MCL so he’s not tough. If Cutler would have played with the injury but then torn his ACL, would he have been stupid for playing with the torn MCL?

Toughness isn’t cheating on your wife. Toughness is making the putt to stay in the top 125 of the money list.

Toughness isn’t throwing a punch at Lou Amundson. Toughness is Amundson’s desire.

Toughness isn’t losing to the worst team in the Western Conference when you’re up 2-0 early in the second period. Toughness is winning when you’re already up 2-0 and blocking out all thoughts of what you’re going to do during the all-star break.

Toughness isn’t sitting on a couch typing. Toughness is choosing to defend our country so talk show hosts can sit on a couch typing as if they know what toughness is.

Toughness isn’t earning the big money contract so you can play in the outfield, listen to The Outfield, and come to spring training unprepared and pop-up every pitch in sight. Toughness is having a break-out season and then being sent to Tucson in the middle of a failing season while still bouncing back in the third season.

Toughness isn’t a flying baseline dunk for your only basket of the game. Toughness is accepting you’re in the top 5 with your own cousin of most talent-wasting players of all time and deciding to do something about it.

Toughness isn’t just playing when hurt. Toughness is accepting your team can’t live with you being the only player in history with 200 strike-outs in one season and never repeating the same mistake again.

Toughness isn’t refusing raises for scouts and video guys just because your GM hired the wrong head coach — who then quickly recanted and put the pieces in place for Western Conference championship run. Toughness is hiring the right people and then following their plan for success.

Toughness isn’t the parent who comes home wallowing in self-pity with drugs and heavy alcohol. Toughness is the exhausted father who musters the energy to play, coach or patiently help their kid with homework (I fail on the “patiently” part).

Toughness isn’t slamming glass doors. Toughness is listening to the trainers in the off-season and coming into the season healthy mentally and physically.

Toughness isn’t taking over a successful organization and coming in trying to show who’s boss. Toughness is removing your own ego and leading the people you’ve been entrusted to lead without acting like you’re in a war.

Toughness isn’t shooting a 9 year-old girl.

Penguin Air

Doug Franz

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