All men are created equal. Its a nice line, but its a lie. All men are not created equal. Every single one of us are different. We are unique. What drives us, what we value, what we believe in, it differs from person to person.
One thing we do all share is a strong survival instinct. Even the biggest bad arse’s have a survival instinct. It was given to us over millions of years of evolution. It is why we survived while other species died out. The instinct to avoid danger, to not put ourselves in harms way. To avoid pain, to run from the things that scare us. We all have that within us.
Playing Rugby League goes against these survival instincts. Not everyone can walk out onto a field and play. You have to be made a certain way. There are plenty of other sports out there that allow you to just step, hop, skip, kick a ball, shoot a target, hit a ball with a racquet or a bat and never put yourself in harms way.
When you play Rugby League, the equipment is your body. You are playing a sport where you take a ball and run at 13 other people whose job it is to stop you by dragging you to the ground. It isn’t something many people are willing to do.
When you take Rugby League to its extreme level, it is a violent collision sport. It is a sport that tests your physical and mental strength. It is a sport that will break your body down over time. It can be flat out dangerous.
Every single professional Rugby League player wants to be out there. They all want to play the game. They are driven to take part in this activity knowing all the risks involved. If it was easy, they wouldn’t do it. They want to test themselves.
Last Wednesday night we all witness an incredible State Of Origin match that saw both sides push themselves further than most people can even imagine. There are very few people on earth that really know what it is like to push yourself past your physical limits, past the pain, past the exhaustion, past those barriers that most people have that would make their survival instincts kick in.
The true State Of Origin players know whats its like to go that far. The ones that can push themselves to do great things when they have nothing else to give, they are a cut above the rest.
We all know the difference, only because we get to see it. You have the guys that have played State Of Origin, and who are good players. Then there are the special ones. The ones that take themselves to places we will never truly understand. The ones who play through the pain, through the injuries, who dazzle us with the skill in moments when most of us would be completely physically broken.
When a player gets to that level they are driven by something different. It might be personal pride, it might be a passion for the game. What ever it is, it is part of who they are. It is part of what makes them different from everyone else.
They can’t just switch that off.
After a brutal State Of Origin performance those players that could play this weekends round of NRL games, did. They didn’t play for the administrators. They didn’t play for their coach. They played because that is what makes them unique. That is what makes them who they are.
They don’t want sympathy. As Cameron Smith ran out there for the Melbourne Storm, as his side was getting shut out by the North Queensland Cowboys, as his muscles ached, as his lung burned, as his body screamed for a break, he played on. Just hours earlier we were all talking about how many weeks he would be missing through injury, yet there he was, playing his heart out in a losing effort.
He wasn’t the only one that did it the last weekend. There were plenty of others. They ran out on the field, still battered and bruised from last Wednesdays State Of Origin contest, because that is what they wanted to do. They love nothing more then pushing themselves past the limits that many believe are possible for even the great players.
This idea that we need to protect these players from themselves, that we should feel sorry for them, that we should be horrified that they want to take themselves to these extremes is ridiculous. When a player has it within them to push past their own limits, we have to admire them. These are our legends. These are out warriors who want to red line themselves and go out on their shield.
Not everyone has that in them. Not everyone is created equal. You don’t have to understand their mindset. You don’t have to relate to them. You don’t have to know what drives them. Just respect what they do, because for every single one of them, the clock is ticking.
When father time eventually steps in and these legends of our game hang up their boots, not a single one of them will regret what they put their bodies through. Many of them will struggle with life after football simply because that challenge of pushing themselves past their own limits is hard to replace in the civilian world.
Some players struggle to let go. They look for one last run anywhere they can find it. Others try to find their limits and push past them in non sporting pursuits.
These people aren’t normal, and we should stop trying to pretend they are. They are different. They are legends. They are the ones whose names we will speak about to our children and our grandchildren.
Not all men are created equal….but who ever said they wanted to be.