Last week we watched 3 premiere athletes crumble under pressure. Tiger Woods, Sidney Crosby, then of course LeBron James in game 5. He posted a triple double in game 6 but still had the apathetic/defeatist attitude of game 5 and his team was eliminated.
Its shocking that these guys weren't able to deliver under pressure. They're arguably the best at their respective sports, have built successful track records and have succeeded under pressure many times. Perhaps more shocking then them not succeeding was they way way they were vilified for it. Fans and media people consistently blasted them out, with LeBron getting the worst of it. A little uncalled for if you ask me. What people fail to realize/acknowledge is that there is a such thing as Too Much Pressure.
This was certainly the case for LeBron. He's been a phenom since age 13. Back then up to now he has dealt with Jordan comparisons (this doesn't help). He was drafted by his hometown team and expected to be the savior of a city with no championships since 1964 and several sports heartbreak since then. Then there's the media fueled duel with Kobe. This was the year, his 7th season (just like MJ,) he has the best team of his his career, a team many felt was the "best" in the league, the overwhelming favorite to win it all. The back to back MVPs Awards. His pending free agency. A lot of pressure.
Perhaps the most pressure causing thing for LeBron, as well as the other two, was their Success. Their success led to our expectations, adding more pressure. That's how its goes though. If you are successful at something people then expect you to continue to be successful at it. However its never enough to simply be successful. When your successful the exceptions become greater: greater success. The result of these greater expectations are sometimes greater success but always more pressure for the individual expected to perform. What happens if they don't?
We saw last week with these guys that failure under pressure is not taken lightly. As I mentioned earlier they were vilified by media and fans. This worries me, because in all actuality they are just athletes. Their successes or lack there of are not matters of life and death. If they were treated so badly how does that translate to us? I have career aspirations that will indirectly and in some case directly impact people's lives (or deaths). The same can be said for almost all of my friends. In addition to that pressure we also have to deal with several other levels. Were black. We may be the only ones from our families/communities to have gone to school. We are being counted on to make a difference, to change the world. That's a lot of pressure.
Is all funny because one of my favorite songs is "Pressure" by Lupe Fiasco (ft Jay-Z). The chorus talks about doing everything for someone else to take the pressure of of them. This is certainly how I live my life, which as you can read is problematic, but I do nonetheless. Another one of my favorite songs is "Success" by Jay-Z (ft Nas.) This song is all about the pressures that comes with certain levels of success. These two tracks (featuring 3 of my favorite artists) really help put this idea of Success = Pressure into perspective for me. Of course I plan to be successful despite the pressure, very successful in fact. As do all of my friends. My only worry is will it be enough? How much success is needed to eliminate pressure? The truth is that at some point there will be Too Much Pressure. So what do we do? What will go in the equation in place of the question mark: SUCCESS = PRESSURE = ?