After the Comma

After the CommaMy weekday morning commute almost always consists of listening to Mike & Mike on ESPN radio. Amidst the four hours of rambling, Sportscenter interruptions, and not-so-funny jokes, M&M will throw in a nugget a wisdom – a profound statement that even the casual listener can take away and apply to the ‘big picture’.

Earlier this week they brought up an interesting point when talking about high-profile Baseball players and their steroid use. (As an example) Alex Rodriguez is without a doubt a player who will go down in history as one of the greatest ever – but before everyone talks about his stats and records, there’s going to be an asterisk, a blip on his radar that mentions his illegal usage of ‘performance enhancing drugs’. Mike(s) had this t0 say:

“What comes after the comma when you read someones name is just as important as the name itself”.

Think about it. When we talk about A-Rod, his legacy will forever read “Alex Rodriguez, admitted to using banned substances from 2001 to 2003, and the youngest player to ever break the 500-home run milestone.”

What stands out? What comes after the comma?

Just this week, Louisville Men’s Basketball coach Rick Pitino has been in the spotlight with the story of his now confirmed affair, during which he was accused of rape (which he was not charged for). Will this act of indiscretion ruin his legacy? Of course not. But will it tarnish his reputation as a man, father and husband, role model, and most importantly as a leader of young adults on (and off) the basketball court? Within all of the championships and success stories, will there be something less-than-desirable after the comma? Without a doubt the answer is yes.

How about Michael Vick? Even if he makes a roaring comeback and wins twenty Super Bowls, he will forever be remembered as a dog murderer. His 23 month stint in Leavenworth will forever show up after his comma.

This concept isn’t limited to athletes and public figures – it applies to every single one of us. In short, people pay more attention when you stumble than when you succeed. And in that sense, it’s important to live with the awareness that anything, for better or worse, could potentially be in your headline after the comma. Your legacy isn’t defined by who you are, but what you do.

What will we see after your comma?


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54 Responses
  • Carlos Miceli Reply

    Envy is a powerful thing.
    Let people talk, we should focus on being comfortable with our decisions. Once I’m gone, they can say whatever they want about me. If I had to choose, I’d be fulfilled just by being considered a good, respectful person. That’s good enough for me.

    • Matt Reply

      People are going to talk – ‘letting them’ isn’t the issue. My point here is that the general public doesn’t remember someone as a ‘good respectful person’ – they are remembered by what they’ve done, their accomplishments, their moments of indiscretion, the 500 home runs, the millions of dollars they make, the committing adultery. While the people near and dear to our hearts may focus on ‘who we are/were’ the general public remembers us for what we’ve done. You and me, everyone who blogs with the intent of other people reading – we’re trying to make a name for ourselves, we’re developing into ‘public figures’ – and in that sense, what we do and how we put ourselves out there is what the masses will use to define us.

      • Carlos Miceli Reply

        Agreed with you there Matt, but why should we aim for the approval of the general public? Envy rules the general public many times. People enjoy scandals, so one has to understand that being public (and caring about what people say) means not being human, you have to be perfect, you are not allowed to make mistakes.
        I think that letting them talk and being true to yourself and your values is a huge issue here, because in the end, you only answer to yourself.
        So, to be honest, I think what your friends and family think about you ocne you’re gone is the only thing that matters. Even those who worship you publicly have no idea of who you are really.

        Final thought: The value of our legacy is democratic. Democracy has been wrong many times before.

  • Carlos Miceli Reply

    Envy is a powerful thing.
    Let people talk, we should focus on being comfortable with our decisions. Once I’m gone, they can say whatever they want about me. If I had to choose, I’d be fulfilled just by being considered a good, respectful person. That’s good enough for me.

    • Matt Reply

      People are going to talk – ‘letting them’ isn’t the issue. My point here is that the general public doesn’t remember someone as a ‘good respectful person’ – they are remembered by what they’ve done, their accomplishments, their moments of indiscretion, the 500 home runs, the millions of dollars they make, the committing adultery. While the people near and dear to our hearts may focus on ‘who we are/were’ the general public remembers us for what we’ve done. You and me, everyone who blogs with the intent of other people reading – we’re trying to make a name for ourselves, we’re developing into ‘public figures’ – and in that sense, what we do and how we put ourselves out there is what the masses will use to define us.

      • Carlos Miceli Reply

        Agreed with you there Matt, but why should we aim for the approval of the general public? Envy rules the general public many times. People enjoy scandals, so one has to understand that being public (and caring about what people say) means not being human, you have to be perfect, you are not allowed to make mistakes.
        I think that letting them talk and being true to yourself and your values is a huge issue here, because in the end, you only answer to yourself.
        So, to be honest, I think what your friends and family think about you ocne you’re gone is the only thing that matters. Even those who worship you publicly have no idea of who you are really.

        Final thought: The value of our legacy is democratic. Democracy has been wrong many times before.

  • Marcos Salazar Reply

    It reminds me of a post I recently did coming out today on the Personal Branding Blog where I talk about how whether we realize it or not, we are all creating a narrative about ourselves both off and online. Everything we post, comment on, or upload is contributing to the story of who we are – potentially to millions. So our actions and ideas that we project all add to “what’s after that comma” and we have to realize, especially if we are public figures, that anything we do may be added after that comma. Another way to think about it is when you are thinking about doing or saying something you can ask, “How is this going to contribute to the story I want to tell?” Thoughts?

  • Marcos Salazar Reply

    It reminds me of a post I recently did coming out today on the Personal Branding Blog where I talk about how whether we realize it or not, we are all creating a narrative about ourselves both off and online. Everything we post, comment on, or upload is contributing to the story of who we are – potentially to millions. So our actions and ideas that we project all add to “what’s after that comma” and we have to realize, especially if we are public figures, that anything we do may be added after that comma. Another way to think about it is when you are thinking about doing or saying something you can ask, “How is this going to contribute to the story I want to tell?” Thoughts?

  • Megan Ogulnick Reply

    So this post definitely got me thinking. I’m a huge sports fan. I love the games, the athletes, the competition. I love staying up late to watch a west coast series and I love the birdie on the 18th hole to win the invitational. The reasons I love sports could go on and on, but this is your blog post, not mine. So I’ll get to it. Probably the biggest reason I love sports is the impact it has on our society. Through sports, children learn about team work, competition, failure, success, goals, ambition, and dreams. As we grow up it teaches us what we’re truly capable of and in many cases it gives us figures to admire and look up to. When we’re older it brings us together. It bonds people from opposite ends of the spectrum and gives us something we can all rally around and cheer for.

    As I started reading your post, I really enjoyed it. But it wasn’t until the final sentence that my heart kind of sank. “Your legacy isn’t defined by who you are, but what you do.” What? Your legacy isn’t defined by who you are? Believe me..I’m not naive. I know there are poor choices being made in sports and that half the time we focus more on the stumbles than the successes. It breaks my heart that our children are looking up to some of these athletes. So what do we do?

    Prior to the 2006 Zurich Classic in New Orleans Phil Mickelson pledged to donate his prize money to Hurricane Katrina relief. Mickelson finished T15, but decided that $81,720 wasn’t sufficient. Therefore, he added an additional $250,000.

    These are the stories we should be focusing on. These are the athletes we should be looking up to. I disagree when you say that your legacy isn’t defined by who are you, but what you do. Your legacy is ALL ABOUT who you are. Because in my mind, “who you are” determines “what you do,” not the other way around.

    If our legacy was defined by what we do, then Alex Rodriquez would be remembered FIRST for being the youngest player to get to the 500-homerun milestone (It’s better, more important, a huge accomplishment), SECOND for his use of PEDs. Instead, I believe his choice to use PEDs directly reflects WHO he is as a person. And that’s what we’re focusing on.

    It’ll be a sad day, when our legacy has nothing to do with the person we are.

    • Matt Reply

      I see where you’re coming from – it’s never my intent to make people’s hearts sink but I did invoke a lot of good thoughts out of you – so I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that one.

      Part of responding to posts chronologically means I’m going to repeat myself a bit – so I apologize for the redundancy. As I said in my response to Carlos above, yes – who we are is important – our moral character and personality drives our actions, not the other way around – doing good things doesn’t make us a good person, being a good person involves doing good things.

      My point is more related to the general public – the people out there who may not know us personally but use our actions to define who we are. Vick, A-Rod, Pitino, we don’t know these guys personally – but ask yourself this – what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Michael Vick? To me it’s not even former QB of the Atlanta Falcons – it has to do with the dog fighting situation and his time in jail. THAT’S what I mean by being defined by our actions.

      Odds are – who you are is a direct reflection of what you do, but in the general perspective of things, we’re not remembered by most as being funny, nice, respectful, etc – we’re remembered by out definable actions. Very interesting conversation/debate here.

    • Benjamin Reply

      “Instead, I believe his choice to use PEDs directly reflects WHO he is as a person. And that’s what we’re focusing on.”
      I see your argument about what it says about him as a person, but I believe it is simpler than that. Alex is remembered more for using PEDs because it ERASES his accomplishments. He cheated and therefore was given an unfair advantage in reaching the 500 home run mark so quickly. After the comma is a good way to look at it, but I would look at the ARod, Manny, Ortiz, and all the other confirmed steroid users as asterisks in the record books. Their accomplishments mean nothing because they were playing on an unfair playing field.

  • Megan Ogulnick Reply

    So this post definitely got me thinking. I’m a huge sports fan. I love the games, the athletes, the competition. I love staying up late to watch a west coast series and I love the birdie on the 18th hole to win the invitational. The reasons I love sports could go on and on, but this is your blog post, not mine. So I’ll get to it. Probably the biggest reason I love sports is the impact it has on our society. Through sports, children learn about team work, competition, failure, success, goals, ambition, and dreams. As we grow up it teaches us what we’re truly capable of and in many cases it gives us figures to admire and look up to. When we’re older it brings us together. It bonds people from opposite ends of the spectrum and gives us something we can all rally around and cheer for.

    As I started reading your post, I really enjoyed it. But it wasn’t until the final sentence that my heart kind of sank. “Your legacy isn’t defined by who you are, but what you do.” What? Your legacy isn’t defined by who you are? Believe me..I’m not naive. I know there are poor choices being made in sports and that half the time we focus more on the stumbles than the successes. It breaks my heart that our children are looking up to some of these athletes. So what do we do?

    Prior to the 2006 Zurich Classic in New Orleans Phil Mickelson pledged to donate his prize money to Hurricane Katrina relief. Mickelson finished T15, but decided that $81,720 wasn’t sufficient. Therefore, he added an additional $250,000.

    These are the stories we should be focusing on. These are the athletes we should be looking up to. I disagree when you say that your legacy isn’t defined by who are you, but what you do. Your legacy is ALL ABOUT who you are. Because in my mind, “who you are” determines “what you do,” not the other way around.

    If our legacy was defined by what we do, then Alex Rodriquez would be remembered FIRST for being the youngest player to get to the 500-homerun milestone (It’s better, more important, a huge accomplishment), SECOND for his use of PEDs. Instead, I believe his choice to use PEDs directly reflects WHO he is as a person. And that’s what we’re focusing on.

    It’ll be a sad day, when our legacy has nothing to do with the person we are.

    • Matt Reply

      I see where you’re coming from – it’s never my intent to make people’s hearts sink but I did invoke a lot of good thoughts out of you – so I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that one.

      Part of responding to posts chronologically means I’m going to repeat myself a bit – so I apologize for the redundancy. As I said in my response to Carlos above, yes – who we are is important – our moral character and personality drives our actions, not the other way around – doing good things doesn’t make us a good person, being a good person involves doing good things.

      My point is more related to the general public – the people out there who may not know us personally but use our actions to define who we are. Vick, A-Rod, Pitino, we don’t know these guys personally – but ask yourself this – what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Michael Vick? To me it’s not even former QB of the Atlanta Falcons – it has to do with the dog fighting situation and his time in jail. THAT’S what I mean by being defined by our actions.

      Odds are – who you are is a direct reflection of what you do, but in the general perspective of things, we’re not remembered by most as being funny, nice, respectful, etc – we’re remembered by out definable actions. Very interesting conversation/debate here.

    • Benjamin Reply

      “Instead, I believe his choice to use PEDs directly reflects WHO he is as a person. And that’s what we’re focusing on.”
      I see your argument about what it says about him as a person, but I believe it is simpler than that. Alex is remembered more for using PEDs because it ERASES his accomplishments. He cheated and therefore was given an unfair advantage in reaching the 500 home run mark so quickly. After the comma is a good way to look at it, but I would look at the ARod, Manny, Ortiz, and all the other confirmed steroid users as asterisks in the record books. Their accomplishments mean nothing because they were playing on an unfair playing field.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    Some great thinking here, Matt.

    I agree with Megan when she says ‘…in my mind, “who you are” determines “what you do,” not the other way around.’ Our actions are usually a result of our beliefs and values about doing things. This directly affects ‘what we do’. While what we do can affect our beliefs and maybe change them, I do think who we are more affects what we do.

    But you bring up a very important point about the comma, Matt. People love to remember the bad more than the good and it’s important to keep that in mind for companies.

    • Matt Reply

      I don’t disagree with your point at all Tim – who we are does define what we do, but what we do is how we’re remembered (by most). And you’re right – the public is quick to point out our flaws, quick to say ‘I told you so’ – overall, the bad – even if it is minuscule in comparison, often does far outweigh the good.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    Some great thinking here, Matt.

    I agree with Megan when she says ‘…in my mind, “who you are” determines “what you do,” not the other way around.’ Our actions are usually a result of our beliefs and values about doing things. This directly affects ‘what we do’. While what we do can affect our beliefs and maybe change them, I do think who we are more affects what we do.

    But you bring up a very important point about the comma, Matt. People love to remember the bad more than the good and it’s important to keep that in mind for companies.

    • Matt Reply

      I don’t disagree with your point at all Tim – who we are does define what we do, but what we do is how we’re remembered (by most). And you’re right – the public is quick to point out our flaws, quick to say ‘I told you so’ – overall, the bad – even if it is minuscule in comparison, often does far outweigh the good.

  • Grace Reply

    I’m not sure what will come up after the comma…but I do like the concept of it. Maybe it will help us think before we act and live our life with more purpose and meaning. Great addition, Matt.

  • Grace Reply

    I’m not sure what will come up after the comma…but I do like the concept of it. Maybe it will help us think before we act and live our life with more purpose and meaning. Great addition, Matt.

  • James Reply

    I think this story and the comments going along with it, is a perfect snapshot of a shift in paradigm. I feel like what you do (occupationally, etc) defines who you are.. But this may be an “old school” way of looking at things. I think with emerging technologies and social media, things are becoming much more transparent. So the emphasis may be shifting towards who you are — during your day job and after hours — hence the shift.

    With social technologies, the geographical distance between us no longer matters when you can simply text / tweet to anyone wherever they may be. This extends the reach or popularity of a person. How many followers do you have? How many “friends” do you have on Facebook? Does the growing audience make you filter what you say at all? Make you rephrase things in an effort to be a tad more witty? I’m blabbering….

    In the end, it’s a relative topic. We all can make a choice to focus on the good, bad, or ugly… Or just the summation (I think I just made up that word) of the overall person. At some point, we all take a glance towards the past.. We can either smile at it, or quicken our pace towards a new direction.

    • Valerie M Reply

      I don’t think there’s anything “old school” about this thinking, it’s human nature. If you’re not close enough to someone it’s pretty hard to know “who they are” except through what they do and say. It’s not just limited to what you do as an occupation. Despite the increasing transparency, writing a blog, writing tweets, and updating Facebook statuses are actions.

      Matt can pour his entire life story out into this blog, but even then there are certain things Matt won’t disclose unless he is intimately close to you. Ultimately his writing will only capture an essence of who he is. It doesn’t make up for knowing him personally. Matt does a lot of stuff on social media, he shares a lot of valuable information, he makes a lot of contacts, and this causes most of us to see him as an upstanding contributor to the blogosphere. But that’s not all he is.

      It’s the same thing with Michael Vick. We can only judge him by what he does, good or bad, because we don’t know him. This is why I feel a lot of celebrities go through crises (*ahem* Jacko) because they are living a double life of living up to who other people think they are through what they do and who they really are in person. Is dogfighting and pedophilic tendencies real indicators of who somebody is? We will never know. With the media choosing to display only these actions and most of us not knowing Vick or Jackson personally, how can you know?

      Sorry for talking about you as if you were not here, Matt. Just trying to illustrate a point. :)

      • Matt Reply

        Great illustration of my point Valerie. I’m not denying that what you do is defined by the person you are – that’s not my focus here – rather, it’s looking at how we’re remembered years from now, or even when we’re gone. THAT will be based on our actions, not our personality. I actually had Jackson included in this but cut him out as an example at the last second. He defines this point to a tee – even the ‘King of Pop’ – someone who shattered records and made millions, will forever be remembered for the accusations of child molestation. Forget what kind of person he was – in fact, in cases like these, we make assumptions about a person’s character based on their actions – so maybe it’s the other way around – maybe what we do contributes to who we are..

        Very interesting conversation here – I love the multiple angles and approaches it’s taking as the discussion and debate progresses.

  • James Reply

    I think this story and the comments going along with it, is a perfect snapshot of a shift in paradigm. I feel like what you do (occupationally, etc) defines who you are.. But this may be an “old school” way of looking at things. I think with emerging technologies and social media, things are becoming much more transparent. So the emphasis may be shifting towards who you are — during your day job and after hours — hence the shift.

    With social technologies, the geographical distance between us no longer matters when you can simply text / tweet to anyone wherever they may be. This extends the reach or popularity of a person. How many followers do you have? How many “friends” do you have on Facebook? Does the growing audience make you filter what you say at all? Make you rephrase things in an effort to be a tad more witty? I’m blabbering….

    In the end, it’s a relative topic. We all can make a choice to focus on the good, bad, or ugly… Or just the summation (I think I just made up that word) of the overall person. At some point, we all take a glance towards the past.. We can either smile at it, or quicken our pace towards a new direction.

    • Valerie M Reply

      I don’t think there’s anything “old school” about this thinking, it’s human nature. If you’re not close enough to someone it’s pretty hard to know “who they are” except through what they do and say. It’s not just limited to what you do as an occupation. Despite the increasing transparency, writing a blog, writing tweets, and updating Facebook statuses are actions.

      Matt can pour his entire life story out into this blog, but even then there are certain things Matt won’t disclose unless he is intimately close to you. Ultimately his writing will only capture an essence of who he is. It doesn’t make up for knowing him personally. Matt does a lot of stuff on social media, he shares a lot of valuable information, he makes a lot of contacts, and this causes most of us to see him as an upstanding contributor to the blogosphere. But that’s not all he is.

      It’s the same thing with Michael Vick. We can only judge him by what he does, good or bad, because we don’t know him. This is why I feel a lot of celebrities go through crises (*ahem* Jacko) because they are living a double life of living up to who other people think they are through what they do and who they really are in person. Is dogfighting and pedophilic tendencies real indicators of who somebody is? We will never know. With the media choosing to display only these actions and most of us not knowing Vick or Jackson personally, how can you know?

      Sorry for talking about you as if you were not here, Matt. Just trying to illustrate a point. :)

      • Matt Reply

        Great illustration of my point Valerie. I’m not denying that what you do is defined by the person you are – that’s not my focus here – rather, it’s looking at how we’re remembered years from now, or even when we’re gone. THAT will be based on our actions, not our personality. I actually had Jackson included in this but cut him out as an example at the last second. He defines this point to a tee – even the ‘King of Pop’ – someone who shattered records and made millions, will forever be remembered for the accusations of child molestation. Forget what kind of person he was – in fact, in cases like these, we make assumptions about a person’s character based on their actions – so maybe it’s the other way around – maybe what we do contributes to who we are..

        Very interesting conversation here – I love the multiple angles and approaches it’s taking as the discussion and debate progresses.

  • Stuart Foster Reply

    “Badass Motherfucker”

    • Elisa Reply

      Is that your comma or Matt’s? :P

      • Matt Reply

        Stuart is, of course, talking about me.

  • Stuart Foster Reply

    “Badass Motherfucker”

    • Elisa Reply

      Is that your comma or Matt’s? :P

      • Matt Reply

        Stuart is, of course, talking about me.

  • Chelsie Reply

    Nice thoughts going on here. I’ll add to the spitballing. This seems to be one of those chicken/egg questions. If a circle has no beginning, then I guess who we are and what we do are going to be endlessly intertwined. I would never say what I do makes me who I am, because I think who I am is constant and detached from my personality and circumstances and only influencing them when I choose. Since I choose when to live strictly reactionary in personality/circumstances and when to live soulfully, my actions change and who I am appears dynamic, depending on how much I live from my identity versus what I’m currently identifying with.

    It’s what we avoid seeing in media representations of people–they have to grow just like we do, we just catch them in slices of living and don’t bother to offer that they might not be living from their personal identity. These actions, often known as mistakes, are not part of who we are-though what we learn from them is; but, even what I do mistakingly is a damn good example of the values I keep and the motivations that compel me, which says a hell of a lot about where I am in life.
    So, maybe it’s not a question of who or what, but where we are in life that defines our actions–situationally, emotionally, and in our perspective. What we do is the best (and only, if you think about it) portrayal of where we’re at.
    ….
    At the end of the day, any public figure that is aware of his audience usually takes it into account in his actions, to uphold it, or even to rebel against it. At that, we can’t assume the marrow of any such figure. Inauthenticity is the color of the public eye, even if it’s innocent and well-meaning. But this can change too, and I hope it would, by folks living their lives unaltered by audience; though, big actions will always inspire one. The trap befalls to stick with the audience instead of growing past it, and maybe at the expense of it, wherever that leads. If I had any soapbox to stand on, my challenge to bloggers is this: that they’d not settle with the success of one step on the road, but continue moving whether their audience follows or not. it’s easy to get stuck with one idea that resonates with people even though it stops resonating with you. I think this crew probably has got it together, though. Cheers Matt, and all who’re continuing to live, or develop, who they are. It’s what we’re doing, afterall…

  • Chelsie Reply

    Nice thoughts going on here. I’ll add to the spitballing. This seems to be one of those chicken/egg questions. If a circle has no beginning, then I guess who we are and what we do are going to be endlessly intertwined. I would never say what I do makes me who I am, because I think who I am is constant and detached from my personality and circumstances and only influencing them when I choose. Since I choose when to live strictly reactionary in personality/circumstances and when to live soulfully, my actions change and who I am appears dynamic, depending on how much I live from my identity versus what I’m currently identifying with.

    It’s what we avoid seeing in media representations of people–they have to grow just like we do, we just catch them in slices of living and don’t bother to offer that they might not be living from their personal identity. These actions, often known as mistakes, are not part of who we are-though what we learn from them is; but, even what I do mistakingly is a damn good example of the values I keep and the motivations that compel me, which says a hell of a lot about where I am in life.
    So, maybe it’s not a question of who or what, but where we are in life that defines our actions–situationally, emotionally, and in our perspective. What we do is the best (and only, if you think about it) portrayal of where we’re at.
    ….
    At the end of the day, any public figure that is aware of his audience usually takes it into account in his actions, to uphold it, or even to rebel against it. At that, we can’t assume the marrow of any such figure. Inauthenticity is the color of the public eye, even if it’s innocent and well-meaning. But this can change too, and I hope it would, by folks living their lives unaltered by audience; though, big actions will always inspire one. The trap befalls to stick with the audience instead of growing past it, and maybe at the expense of it, wherever that leads. If I had any soapbox to stand on, my challenge to bloggers is this: that they’d not settle with the success of one step on the road, but continue moving whether their audience follows or not. it’s easy to get stuck with one idea that resonates with people even though it stops resonating with you. I think this crew probably has got it together, though. Cheers Matt, and all who’re continuing to live, or develop, who they are. It’s what we’re doing, afterall…

  • Elisa Reply

    I did my freshman English 101 final paper on this. Well, it was on the book “Lies My Teacher Told Me” (http://bit.ly/6kAEs) which was as the same time a fantastic and disheartening book. It tells the story of public figures who we feel did wonderful things because it fits prettier in American History, but in actuality they had very dark clouds hanging over their heads. Think Thomas Jefferson and the whole slave empire type darkness.

    Being the extremely intellectual scholar that I am, I likened this to an episode of The Simpsons. Yes, everything that you need to know in life is a lesson that can be learned from The Simpsons. In this particular episode (http://bit.ly/17sgCP) Lisa learns that the founder of Springfield, one Mr. Jebediah Springfield was in fact not the compassionate, fearless and strong leader he was emulated to be. Instead he is a mutinous, murderous, generally bad man pirate who used the people of Springfield to hide. She and Homer race to the town square to expose him for the evil that he was, but they see the people of town frolicking and being happy and celebrating the idea of this man and the legacy that idea has left. And Lisa, for all her high roadie drama and occasionally super-egoist views, realizes that sometimes believing in the goodness and spirit of humanity is more important than exposing everything for what it truly is.

    Should we ignore the things that people do when they are wrong? Absolutely positively without a doubt no. Should we acknowledge that contrary to some popular beliefs they are, in fact, human and do make mistakes…and maybe we should learn as a society to celebrate the good more than the bad? I know a little spiky haired yellow girl who would resoundingly say “Yes!”

  • Elisa Reply

    I did my freshman English 101 final paper on this. Well, it was on the book “Lies My Teacher Told Me” (http://bit.ly/6kAEs) which was as the same time a fantastic and disheartening book. It tells the story of public figures who we feel did wonderful things because it fits prettier in American History, but in actuality they had very dark clouds hanging over their heads. Think Thomas Jefferson and the whole slave empire type darkness.

    Being the extremely intellectual scholar that I am, I likened this to an episode of The Simpsons. Yes, everything that you need to know in life is a lesson that can be learned from The Simpsons. In this particular episode (http://bit.ly/17sgCP) Lisa learns that the founder of Springfield, one Mr. Jebediah Springfield was in fact not the compassionate, fearless and strong leader he was emulated to be. Instead he is a mutinous, murderous, generally bad man pirate who used the people of Springfield to hide. She and Homer race to the town square to expose him for the evil that he was, but they see the people of town frolicking and being happy and celebrating the idea of this man and the legacy that idea has left. And Lisa, for all her high roadie drama and occasionally super-egoist views, realizes that sometimes believing in the goodness and spirit of humanity is more important than exposing everything for what it truly is.

    Should we ignore the things that people do when they are wrong? Absolutely positively without a doubt no. Should we acknowledge that contrary to some popular beliefs they are, in fact, human and do make mistakes…and maybe we should learn as a society to celebrate the good more than the bad? I know a little spiky haired yellow girl who would resoundingly say “Yes!”

  • Benjamin Reply

    I think that this post calls back to your post about the whole Penelope Trunk post and whether or not bloggers have a responsibility to be held accountable for every action and/or word that might be offensive to others. Charles Barkley said “I am not a role model,” and boy he was right. Spitting on and cussing out fans never made him someone that I aspired to be as a person. But he was still a potential hall of fame basketball player, no matter how awful I think his antics were. Do athletes have to be role models, or do they just need to be entertaining and skilled enough for millions to tune for the playoffs?

    I think that you have hit on two different types of after the comma in this post. While Rick Pitino’s alleged rape charges and Vick’s confirmed dog fighting and cruelty charges are both abhorrent actions in my eyes, neither of them affected their ability to play sports favorably or adversely. This does not change the fact that their actions in the off season were disgusting and wrong, but it did not affect their performance as an athlete or coach.

    ARod and others have admitted to cheating by using drugs that gave them an unfair advantage. This makes their accomplishments meaningless. Would ARod have gotten that giant contract if they had known he was using steroids? Definitely not. So this is a completely different kind of after the comma. Vick and Pitino will have an after the comma, ARod and company will receive an asterisk because they accomplished false records.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      This is an important point, Benjamin. You could be the best athlete ever with the most home runs, touchdowns, three pointers, strikes, spikes, and laps swimmed. But as soon as it gets out that you cheated during it all, it means absolutely nothing.

      Think about it this way: is it cooler when an actor does their own stunts or when they use a stunt double?

    • Elisa Reply

      I agree with this SO much, and I meant to touch on it but I got totally distracted by the Simpsons. :)

      The comma DOES mean a lot more when it is compromising the integrity of the laureate we are celebrating.

  • Benjamin Reply

    I think that this post calls back to your post about the whole Penelope Trunk post and whether or not bloggers have a responsibility to be held accountable for every action and/or word that might be offensive to others. Charles Barkley said “I am not a role model,” and boy he was right. Spitting on and cussing out fans never made him someone that I aspired to be as a person. But he was still a potential hall of fame basketball player, no matter how awful I think his antics were. Do athletes have to be role models, or do they just need to be entertaining and skilled enough for millions to tune for the playoffs?

    I think that you have hit on two different types of after the comma in this post. While Rick Pitino’s alleged rape charges and Vick’s confirmed dog fighting and cruelty charges are both abhorrent actions in my eyes, neither of them affected their ability to play sports favorably or adversely. This does not change the fact that their actions in the off season were disgusting and wrong, but it did not affect their performance as an athlete or coach.

    ARod and others have admitted to cheating by using drugs that gave them an unfair advantage. This makes their accomplishments meaningless. Would ARod have gotten that giant contract if they had known he was using steroids? Definitely not. So this is a completely different kind of after the comma. Vick and Pitino will have an after the comma, ARod and company will receive an asterisk because they accomplished false records.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      This is an important point, Benjamin. You could be the best athlete ever with the most home runs, touchdowns, three pointers, strikes, spikes, and laps swimmed. But as soon as it gets out that you cheated during it all, it means absolutely nothing.

      Think about it this way: is it cooler when an actor does their own stunts or when they use a stunt double?

    • Elisa Reply

      I agree with this SO much, and I meant to touch on it but I got totally distracted by the Simpsons. :)

      The comma DOES mean a lot more when it is compromising the integrity of the laureate we are celebrating.

  • DrJohnDrozdal Reply

    The “after the comma” POV is so right on, Matt. I recently posted a blog about the consequences of living a public life. http://workingwithtwentysomethings.com/lessons-from-living-a-public-life/ What we do and what we say is our legacy. The only way people really get to know who we are is through our words and actions. I’m not sure whether that insight is “old school” or it’s more about the life wisdom we acquire through experience.

    I also think the public/private side of life is an interesting conversation. While I have a private side that people close to me get to see, I’d like to think that I do the best I can to lead an authentic and consistent life so that what people see me do in public gives a good indication of the kind of person I am. Good stuff here.

    • Matt Reply

      Thanks for the insight John – to your point – I agree with your mantra of maintaining consistency both on and offline. With that being said, while transparency is critical, we can still be effective through ‘selective transparency’ – not pretending to be someone we’re not, but not ‘laying it all out there’ so to speak. Good stuff indeed.

  • DrJohnDrozdal Reply

    The “after the comma” POV is so right on, Matt. I recently posted a blog about the consequences of living a public life. http://workingwithtwentysomethings.com/lessons-from-living-a-public-life/ What we do and what we say is our legacy. The only way people really get to know who we are is through our words and actions. I’m not sure whether that insight is “old school” or it’s more about the life wisdom we acquire through experience.

    I also think the public/private side of life is an interesting conversation. While I have a private side that people close to me get to see, I’d like to think that I do the best I can to lead an authentic and consistent life so that what people see me do in public gives a good indication of the kind of person I am. Good stuff here.

    • Matt Reply

      Thanks for the insight John – to your point – I agree with your mantra of maintaining consistency both on and offline. With that being said, while transparency is critical, we can still be effective through ‘selective transparency’ – not pretending to be someone we’re not, but not ‘laying it all out there’ so to speak. Good stuff indeed.

  • Sam Reply

    I’m clearly way behind in my Google Reader, but better late than never. This is a great post, and something that really interests me. I think part of the reason we focus on the negative, what comes after the comma, is because that’s what the media focuses on most. Let me just say that I have a journalism background, so I’m not just someone who blames everything on the media. But, I did a good deal of research during college about how the media portrays athletes, and what aspects of their lives are focused on most often. The result? Arrests, affairs, screw ups on the field and off, are reported on much more than good things like community service.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s right to be judged simply on the bad things that come after the comma. If you’re going to pass judgement on someone, look at their whole life, all that they do, positive and negative. Look for the good in people, the big picture instead of one or two major events or actions. Very interesting post, Matt!

  • Sam Reply

    I’m clearly way behind in my Google Reader, but better late than never. This is a great post, and something that really interests me. I think part of the reason we focus on the negative, what comes after the comma, is because that’s what the media focuses on most. Let me just say that I have a journalism background, so I’m not just someone who blames everything on the media. But, I did a good deal of research during college about how the media portrays athletes, and what aspects of their lives are focused on most often. The result? Arrests, affairs, screw ups on the field and off, are reported on much more than good things like community service.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s right to be judged simply on the bad things that come after the comma. If you’re going to pass judgement on someone, look at their whole life, all that they do, positive and negative. Look for the good in people, the big picture instead of one or two major events or actions. Very interesting post, Matt!

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