Ben McAdoo is always trying to find ways to inspire his players, and this time he used two markedly different stories to make his point. He read the famous Rudyard Kipling poem, “If,” to reach the younger players, and recounted the story of “Frasier The Lion” for the older set.
McAdoo first read Kipling’s poem in June, and it made such a powerful impression he wanted his players, particularly the ones with less NFL experience than most, to hear its message.
“First time I read it, then I listened to it, then I listened to it a couple different ways,” McAdoo said of the poem. “I sat there with my son and listened to it. [For people] 25 and under, it’s a pretty powerful poem.”
The poem, written as if a father is talking to his son to help him become an outstanding person, begins, “If you can keep your head when all about you, Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too …” The final portion reads, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And--which is more--you’ll be a Man, my son!”
McAdoo indicated that Frasier was the true story of a lion who had nearly died but was suddenly revived and went on to impregnate several lionesses who had previously rejected the entreaties of younger lions. He mentioned that he had shared the story during his opening remarks with reporters, but wasn’t asked any follow-up questions, in part because none of the reporters had immediately recalled the story.
According to Time Magazine, Frasier, at the age of 19, had been of little use to a circus in Mexico. In 1972, he eventually wound up on an animal preserve south of Los Angeles and was placed on a special diet that included plenty of vitamins. He eventually regained weight he had lost and began to attract several lionesses. Within 16 months, he had fathered 33 cubs. LIFE had called him “the country’s reigning sex simba” and TIME said “one observer noted that he was ‘the first x-rated zoo attraction in history.’ ”
The football lesson here: It’s never too late for older players to regain their vitality. McAdoo surely wanted to reach his oldest player – 36-year-old Eli Manning – with his message.
When told after a short team workout that the lion story was being widely discussed in the press room, McAdoo said, “It is? That’s what we do.” He quickly walked into the team’s training facility.
Earlier in the day, McAdoo spoke of the need to have all the players with empathy for one another, which is why he discussed Kipling and Frasier.
“We have a youth group and an experienced group,” he said. “We have players ranging from 21 years old to 36 years old. That’s a big age difference. The good teams merge well and jell well. We need to understand what the other person is going through. Empathy is a big part of that. It’s a carryover from one of our values. A 36-year-old understanding what a 20-year-old is going through and a 20-year-old trying to understand what a 36-year-old is going through, it’s not easy.”