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There’s No Place Like Sports, A Lesson from Big Joe

by Howie Barber


I am, unfortunately, a lifelong New York Jets fan. If losing builds character, then I have more than any one man deserves. 


Nothing better prepares you for life than being the fan of a perennially losing sports team.  The disappointments toughen you for whatever life has in store and remind you tomorrow is another day. The successes set the expectation that it doesn't happen every time, so enjoy the good times when they are good, but stay humble.


When I was a kid, my Uncle Bobby would take me to the Jets training camp at Hofstra University   After practice, the players walked up a hill to the locker room as fans would line the fence and yell to the players for autographs. Being only 10 or 11, I didn't know any offensive lineman, just the "faces" of the franchise; wide receivers, quarterbacks, linebackers, etc.


There was one practice, in specific, that I remember. As Richard Todd (a #1 draft pick out of the University of Alabama and starting quarterback at the time) was walking between the fences with a group of players, I called out to him for an autograph. He turned smiling and said he would only sign if I asked Big Joe for an autograph first. Not knowing who Big Joe was at the time, but wanting the signature, I said "of course."

Big Joe was Joe Fields the center, one of the most important pieces to an offensive line. The center is responsible for putting the ball in the quarterback's hands at the start of every play. He also makes the pre-snap blocking assignment call at the line for the other linemen.  And the center has what is most likely the closest working relationship with the quarterback out of the entire team, more important than the quarterback's relationships with receivers and running backs. If the initial exchange doesn't work - nothing else gets accomplished.

Even as a young kid, it impressed me the way a person in the "spotlight" would pull another along, making sure the guy behind the scenes doing the dirty work, gets some recognition. It's much like a singer or band leader turning to his band to thank them and introduce them to the audience.


As with all great teams in the realms of sports, business, entertainment and so on... It's the sum of ALL THE PIECES that make it work. The little guy who works away anonymously so that the next level gets what they need to succeed should get as much acknowledgment as the top of the chain.  


True leaders ensure that the "Big Joes" of the organization get their due credit and the recognition they deserve. It's a lesson I learned as a kid that I apply every day.

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