Thursday, July 28, 2011

What A Waste

The news that Amy Winehouse had died was, to TigerBlog and many others, not surprising.

For the most part, TigerBlog had no idea who Winehouse was, other than a troubled singer. He was pretty sure he had never heard her sing a note, and he couldn't name a song of hers.

About all he knew was that 1) she was English, 2) she had a problem with drugs and 3) she was constantly in the news for her drug-related problems, as well as for some outlandish behavior.

As far as TB was concerned, Winehouse was another pampered entertainer, someone more famous for being famous than for any actual substance. She appeared to fit in nicely with the current Lindsay Lohan-type blueprint for fame; namely, do whatever is necessary to be outrageous to achieve celebrity for celebrity's sake.

When the news broke, TB read a little about it, though it was clear that she had to have died of a drug overdose. After all, she was 27.

And yes, that was the same age that music legends Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison, among others, were when they died.

Still, TB though, how could Winehouse be compared to those people?

Eventually, TB stumbled upon one story that had a link to one of her songs, so he figured he'd actually stop and listen.

And you know what?

She was good. Really good. Really, genuinely talented, with a very unique style that was a combination of modern Hip-Hop and old blues, tied together with a powerful voice. It was actually haunting to hear her, a few days after her death, for the first time.

Now TigerBlog feels somewhat ghoulish listening to some of these songs, especially since he never gave her a second thought while she was alive.

The reality is that it's a complete waste of that talent that Winehouse died so young, made even worse by how she died.

TB has tried to get his kids - and the kids he's coached - to understand that there are certain surefire ways to get into trouble, and he's made a list: 1) hanging out with the wrong people, 2) staying out after midnight, 3) gambling and 4 and most important) drugs and alcohol.

He also often quotes a second- or third-generation piece of advice that was given to him: If you have to ask yourself if what you're about to do is a good idea, it isn't, or, put differently, when in doubt, don't do it.

He can only hope that when the time comes, all young people will make the right decisions, though he knows that they all won't.

In Winehouse's case, the price for not doing so was the highest she could have paid.

And it was a total waste.

Anytime TigerBlog has been asked to speak to incoming freshmen or recruits, he always tells them the same thing.

By virtue of being recruited by a school like Princeton, these kids by definition are among the very, very elite of their age in terms of academic performance and athletic ability. They have been given gifts that so many others their age weren't - and would trade anything to have.

It's easy to take it for granted when you've spent your whole life as the smartest one in the class and the best athlete.

And TB tells every one of them when he's asked to meet with the same thing: Whatever you do, don't waste the talent you've been given.

Right now, there are somewhere around 200 athletes who are a few weeks away from being Princeton freshmen. They are still in their summer vacations, maybe working, with school looming out there but not quite a reality yet.

When they get here, they'll start out their run at Princeton with basically the same goals - win championships, play a lot, get a great education, make some lifelong relationships, have a great all-around experience.

Not all will achieve all of those. Some will. Just not all. It's not possible.

Still, TigerBlog's advice to all of them is the same. Don't waste the opportunity. Get the most out of it that you possibly can.

Don't look back four years from now and wish you'd done more than you had.

TB isn't trying to equate what happened to Amy Winehouse to what happens to a college athlete or student who doesn't make the maximum effort, though there is one similarity.

Theirs is a unique opportunity.

They owe it to themselves to do their absolute best.

Anything else is just a waste.

In Winehouse's case, it's a tragic waste.

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