TheSacrifice is Different
I know. I know. There are going to be all those other sport fanatics who say they learn sacrifice in their sports or say these lessons should be learned at home but the truth is the level of sacrifice is different then anything else we have today. (Although I will address the changes in this area when I address the problems in the game later.)
You pay more for less
Lets face it football is a hard sport. there is nothing easy about. As Jim Harbaugh said in the HBO special, football is not fun but the rewards are much greater. In today's world it is a year around commitment. The offseason for most (especially linemen is much heavier conditioning and strength training then most sports. You don't shoot foul shots in the offseason.) In-season practices can be physical and exhausting. You practice in the elements: extreme heat, rain, even snow. The mere fact of the physical nature of the sport involves a commitment to practice while hurting all season long. (I don't know anybody who feels the same throughout the season after the first day.)
And for what - 10 games. That's it for 90% of the participants. 10 games. (12 or 14 in college) Compare that with lesser (or different) commitments in other sports where once the season begins you can play everyday if you deem. Baseball plays 162 games in the majors - think about that compared to the player who gets one and only one game per week.
I'll argue with anybody here that the sacrifice one makes just because of this nature.
The roster number factor
Many high school rosters have 80 kids on them today. Many colleges well over 100. when you get down to the bottom 20% talent wise you are talking about kids that are sacrificing everything. Their complete year just for the honor of wearing the jersey. They know that their chances of getting in are slim but they practice, they work in the offseason, they give up their bodies everyday just for the possibilities. (in other sports there might be one or two of these kids.)
The strange thing is that many of the players I have had that fit into this role have gone on to become titans in business and pillars in their communities. When they return or contact me, there is a repetitive message - the lessons learned just to be part of something bigger where significant in all their successes.
In a world beset with the need for instant gratification; where failure is very temporary, where everybody is a star (with the Voice, American Idol, America's Got Talent, etc. am I the only person in the world who can't sing!), football defies common thought. As George Allen once said "After every loss you die for a week!" There is no magical rebirth the next day. you must live with and learn to cope with that loss for a full week. You cannot go right out the next day and redeem yourself. You must learn to rededicate, refocus, and recommit for 6 days before you get a chance at redeeming yourself.
Even after a win, you cannot just carry it through to the next day. (when I was young and played baseball, if I had a good day I couldn't wait for the next. I didn't need anymore practice for the next day. I was ready!) You must start all over at point zero and sacrifice another week of yourself.
In life not everything comes the first time. You must endure OVER TIME! Not everything is instant. Neither is football - you must wait for the rewards. And if you get one reward - you must wait for the next.
Like life there will be downs - even severe downs. And like life, you are not going to wake up the next day and everything will change. If your wife left you - she will probably still be gone. If you lost your job, one will not magically appear the next day. If your company went under it will not suddenly show a profit. Unless you've been in a situation before where you had to dedicate yourself over time and be willing to sacrifice everything again, you will never know if you can do it. Unless you faced loss and had to endure a duration of time where you had to put it all on the line again you will never know if you can do it.
The physical nature
By the nature of the sport the sacrifice is greater as is the threat of injury. But to risk more to sacrifice more brings greater rewards. There is not a player who does not realize he may be injured on the field. Yet, he weighs this sacrifice with the rewards of the game. Later in life he must decide what sacrifice and risk he must take in life.
The presence of "non-skilled" position
These players whole life in the pits is sacrifice. They are rarely known. There practices consist of hitting sleds and dummies. There is very little reward until he actual game and the actual TEAM outcome for these players. They will not see themselves in the box sores. They will not be on Wheaties boxes.
or as Bo Schembechler told me on a visit to Michigan football: "the team...the team...the team!"