With Sunday’s Super Bowl just a couple of days behind us, it’s a good time to contemplate the importance of merit as an essential principle for a healthy, prosperous society.

Both the Rams and the Patriots fought hard to win on Sunday, but only the Patriots woke up Monday morning in possession of the Lombardi trophy. The Rams played hard but lost. They did not get a trophy. This is how it should be.

Despite numerous Super Bowl ads directly or indirectly promoting squishy, feel-good values like the “everybody can win” philosophy, the elite athletes in Mercedes-Benz Stadium were expressing what we all know: not everyone wins, nor should they.

When the game clock was running, life was good. But, when most of the “amazing” Super Bowl commercials were airing, I felt like I was suddenly stuck in a mandatory high school assembly being lectured about kindness by the guidance counselor.

The stark contrast with what the NFL and its advertisers were feeding us during commercial breaks compared with the sheer brutality of what was happening on the turf was ironic to say the least.

Sports, especially football, are a great platform for teaching the lessons of life. As we know, the principles or fundamentals of each sport are often referred to as “the basics.” In baseball, football, or lacrosse, the team that adheres to the fundamentals most consistently wins most consistently. This is how it should be.

The Patriots, under the leadership of Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback, Tom Brady have repeatedly executed those fundamentals with precision. Reinforced with the team mantra “do your job,” the Patriots prepare meticulously, play  hard (think Julian Edelman), pay attention to the details, and put team over self in order to beat their opponent.

This is how American life works as well, at least so far. It’s really no mystery at all. When we stray from the fundamentals, the seeds of losing have been planted. This is true not just in sports, but in business and marriage as well.

By refocusing on the basics, individuals, teams, couples, and even nations can break out of slumps. Our nation’s founding principles(or fundamentals)of liberty include limited government, strong property rights, governmental checks and balances, free markets, debt avoidance, and equal rights (not equal things).

For individual citizens, these standards are translated into the expectation of self-reliance, personal initiative, individual responsibility, and resourcefulness. Recognizing the principles cultivated by our Founding Fathers (and teaching them to our children) illuminates our understanding and preserves the attitude of freedom for future generations.

For many decades, our country has obviously been drifting from the Founders’ formula for individual liberty and self-determination. The soaring deficit, excessive spending, and the rewarding of irresponsible behavior are just a few of the signs that we’ve been planting the wrong seeds. We have, for several generations, abandoned the principles that matter most.

Without much of a fight, we have allowed massive federal programs, and the second-rate government mindset that accompanies them to invade our lives and infect our national attitude.

And with a couple of generations of young American adults who have been deprived by modern academia of the basic tenets that undergird our nation’s unique success, this is a problem that is not going away any time soon.

Merit means winners are allowed to win. Yes, this is an old-fashioned notion, but just consider the alternative. If winners aren’t allowed to win, someone else will be picking the losers and winners. Is that the kind of society you want?

In life, like sports, we can’t always win. But the relentless effort to win, the tenacious pursuit of worthwhile goals makes us exceptional people. This dynamic should be encouraged, not discouraged.

When we follow time-tested principles, life becomes very simple. When we follow fads, life becomes very complicated. This is true for a  team, an athlete, an individual as well as for our nation.

The quick way into a mess is to neglect fundamental truths. The quickest way out of a mess is to reorient yourself in a manner consistent with what is true, right, excellent, noble and worthy of praise.

Winning is not only a good thing, it’s your job. And we should all do our job, and sometimes, we might just earn a trophy.

 

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