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Do something you love so much that you would do it for free.

That is my philosophical approach to life – a philosophy that I frequently impart upon my kids.  “Get your education”, I tell them, “because it gives you options.  But when you finish with your education, do something you love so much that you would do it for free.”

And if along the way you discover that what you love so much just doesn’t pay the bills, well then at least you have your education to fall back on and you can use it to find a livelihood that provides more financial substance.

My children are only 14 and 12 and this mantra of sorts doesn’t register with them quite yet but one day it will.  And if so, maybe they will be among the few that actually go to work with smiles on their faces on Mondays.  I hope so.

A couple of professional athletes here in The Land of Pleasant Living used to go to work with smiles on their faces each time they punched in.  Their unabashed and insatiable love of their respective games was so infectious it brought smiles to the faces of those around them.

Those smiles don’t shine as brightly or as often anymore.

When Miguel Tejada first dressed in black and orange and moved to a parcel of real estate at Camden Yards formerly owned by Cal Ripken, Jr., he did so with the youthful exuberance of a little leaguer on Opening Day.  Tejada yapped, he was on the front step of the dugout cheering on his mates and he created hip handshakes that helped to ignite a contagious enthusiasm.  This coupled with his All Star contributions on the field and seemingly overnight he became the face of the Baltimore Orioles.

His play reminded me of the character of Shoeless Joe Jackson played by Ray Liotta in the classic Field of Dreams.  Jackson loved the smell of the grass, the feel of the bat in his hand and the sun beating down on the back of his neck.  So passionate was Shoeless Joe about the game of baseball he would have played it for meal money only.

Tejada certainly plays for more than meal money yet his passion isn’t one that is bought.  That passion comes from within.  It flows through his veins and regardless of the size of that direct deposit, there is a genuineness to his approach to the game that money can’t buy.  Money can’t buy the love of the game.

But unfortunately for Tejada his love affair with baseball is parked in the purgatory known as Camden Yards.  Baseball looks more like a job to him now and the company he works for isn’t doing so well and they haven’t for a long, long time.  You and I might love a shot at playing a kids’ game while making $72 million over six years.  That might put a smile on your face, right?

Tejada wants more.  He wants to win but his employer just can’t get it right and there is no indication that they ever will.  Camden Yards was once a place that you couldn’t get into.  Now it’s a place that players can’t wait to get out of including Tejada.  The bounce that once defined his step is missing.  Now he’s no longer inspired enough to run out a ground ball.  Things aren’t going too well.

When things aren’t going well in your world, the little things that go awry seem to bother you a bit more.  Your life has come undone because your kid spilled his milk or the dog had a little accident.  We’ve all felt those pressures.  Perhaps Miggy feels them too.  The difference with him, is he has a microphone in his face 24×7 and sometimes something comes out due to frustration and before you know it, the frustration is front page news.

Tejada wants a trade.

Who can blame him?

Similarly, it’s hard to blame Ray Lewis for his obvious frustrations.  In his prime Ray was a unique breed of athlete – a talented overachiever.  He led by example, he forced his will upon you and if you were his teammate, you gulped from the cup and went to war for this field general.

Teammates would walk through fire for Ray.

Things have changed.  Prime years of Ray’s career were left on the field at M&T Bank Stadium without ever approaching the lofty status of the 2000 season.  Ray wanted to leave a legacy.  He wanted to carve out his place in NFL history.  He wanted to be remembered as the best but to be acknowledged as that, he knew one Super Bowl wouldn’t be enough.  To achieve that desired pinnacle, Ray had to be a champion again.  Today some of Ray’s best years lie among the collateral damage of an inept offense led by Brian Billick and Kyle Boller.

Ray’s love of the game of football was moving, it was unwavering and inspiring.  His uniform was the armor of a warrior, a gladiator.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

Unfortunately these days, what Ray is doing more than anything else in life is complaining and those complaints are echoing throughout Baltimore and they’ve sullied what was once an untouchable reputation.  He’s now seen as selfish by some and as a cancer by others.

Today Ray’s teammates might say be careful of that fire — it’s hot out there!

Is it too late for Ray?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

The Ravens’ front office has made strides this offseason to restore the team’s winning ways.  Time will tell if their efforts will be successful.  If so perhaps all those contract issues and defensive tackle complaints and trade me requests will be seen as just temporary blips on Ray’s career radar screen.  Perhaps he’ll again bring that warrior’s mentality to the field and play for the love of the game. 

Perhaps he’ll even smile again on Sundays.

For Ray, it’s possible.  For Miggy, well that’s another story…

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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