Here is today’s question: Do some people start to believe the narrative that others create for them? I ask this because we hear an awful lot in sports about “proving everybody wrong” and “playing for respect” and such things. I believe there are some athletes who do feed off this kind of negative energy. Tom Brady seems to be one of those guys who needs the doubters; he seemed to use that low draft pick thing to spark his fury and brilliance. Albert Pujols seems to one of those guys too; he has had nothing but success in the major leagues (at least until the start this year) and yet has never stopped pointing to those who doubted him along the way.
I would say the clearest example is Michael Jordan. Of course. He needed those doubters so badly that he sort of invented the whole “I got cut from my high school basketball team” narrative to keep him angry and hungry and edgy.
There’s a story a friend told me about Jordan, I probably won’t get all the details right so I’ll keep it general. The story was about how a player lit him up for a bunch of points in a game. After the game, Jordan grumbled angrily about how the other guy trash-talked him all night, and how the next game Jordan would personally make sure that guy suffered. Well, the next game happened, and sure enough Jordan scored like 40 and held the guy to something like two of 17 shooting, blocked a few of his shots, kind of humiliated him.
After that game, my friend went over to the other guy and found he was a pretty good sport about it all. “I guess I had it coming,” he said laughing. But then, quietly, he said something. He said: “You know, I never said a single word to Jordan in that last game. Not one word.”