- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

There are a lot of messages posted around the football building at the University of Michigan. I wouldn’t call it “propaganda,” but some might say it’s along those lines. It’s just a little rah-rah sign here, another one there. There are a lot of sayings about the tradition and the people and the program, and it gets you going. One of the first coaches at Michigan — the man who developed a lot of the traditions that are there right now, such as the winged helmet — was Fielding H. Yost. And one of his quotes was posted in the weight room: “It’s not devotion to a fad that makes men play football; it’s because they enjoy their struggle.” I’ve been thinking about that quote a lot this week now that we’re at that point in the season when we’re playing for pride, for things other than the goals we set out to accomplish. When you’re in high school, some guys may play because it’s cool, because the chicks dig it. But to make it, to be successful in college or to make it to the NFL, you have to enjoy the struggle of having up times and down times, of having periods when you work so hard and you know nobody will recognize it until you’re successful on the field. We enjoy being a part of something not everybody can do. We enjoy being a part of something extremely hard. We’re not always successful. But you have to remember that when you do make the playoffs, it will be that much sweeter because you spent four or five years preparing for the moment. When we are successful — and we will be — we’ll look back and say, “I’m glad we stayed with it. I’m glad we kept working. I’m glad the fans stuck with us.” Obviously we’re not there now, but we have enough guys who enjoy the struggle enough to stick with it and make it to what we’re going for. Each time we lose, in some ways it becomes more difficult to get that next victory. The weight of expectations of being a good team, that weight is still there. And until we do prove we are a good team, that weight is just going to get heavier and heavier and heavier. But once you get on that roll, everyone seems to forget the losses. When we beat Seattle, it seemed like everyone all of a sudden pushed that bad stuff aside. It only takes one game like that, and all of a sudden you’re back in it. The one thing I’m not concerned about is a culture of losing setting in. I’m not going to allow it. As long as I’m here, and as long as LaVar Arrington and Jeremiah Trotter are here, it won’t happen. We’ve got guys who have come from teams and programs that have been successful. They know what it’s like to win. A culture of losing won’t be acceptable. I got into the house about 5 a.m. Monday after the late flight back from Miami. I always TiVo the games, and so I sat there and watched the Miami game. I tried to pinpoint where we lost it. Then I went back and watched the Carolina game. And I watched the Seattle game. And I thought to myself: We’re so, so close to making this a winning season. And that’s what makes it so frustrating. There are so many plays out there to be made. There are so many times when we’re six inches from a touchdown catch or from a touchdown run or a tipped ball away from not letting them score. We’re right there but not there. All right, now I’m going to take a question from a reader who wants to know how he can get into hunting in the area around here. He says that none of his friends is a hunter and he doesn’t know how to get started. In Loudoun County there’s a chapter of what’s called the Izaak Walton League. It’s a conservation association, as well as an education association. The phone number is 301/548-0150, and the Web site is www.loudouniwla.org. They do a great job of introducing individuals to the outdoors, whether it be fishing — they have a pond there where you can learn how to fish — or hunting. They’ve got a rifle range and an archery range. They try to introduce people to hunting and the outdoors the right way, so they learn the safe way to do it. They have different days when they will have instruction on rifle shooting. And they will have some rifles there, and they will teach you how to use them. They have all the equipment you need to learn and find out where you want to go from there. Thanks for the continued e-mails at [email protected] See you next week. • Staff writer Jody Foldesy collaborates with Redskins tackle Jon Jansen on this column. It appears every Wednesday.


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