Skip..! Check out Samuel Johnson

Shannon Sharpe, that noted wit and intellectual, dropped a truly great quote today during on "Undisputed: Skip and Shannon" in the service of explaining Ben Simmons' choice to sit out a playoffs series which his Brooklyn Nets team would go on to lose.

Shannon Sharpe standing at a desk
Photo by Djeneba Aduayom for ICON MANN

The quote Sharpe referred to is this one, from the essay "The mischiefs of falsehood. The character of Turpicula." (Samuel Johnson, 1752):

Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess and to gain applause which he cannot keep.

Sharpe seemed to use Johnson's quote in the process of explaining how past failures can cripple top athletes--even manifesting in physical ailments. For Simmons, a missed opportunity in the prior season's playoffs may have led to a mental anguish so intense that it expressed itself in physical debilitation. Johnson's quote in this case suggests that Simmons is out of his depth, and may need significant help to regain his lost level of confidence (hence: performance on the court).

That "Skip and Shannon" segment was fascinating--well worth watching--but the most potent takeaways were:

  1. The brilliance of Samuel Johnson. A poor, self-taught nobody (who suffered from Tourette's Syndrome his whole life) that eventually became known as the "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history" by a combination of persistence, personality and curiosity.

  2. Sports psychology is the next great frontier in general sense-making. Sports is universally compelling because it provides concentrated models of the trials and triumphs in everyone's life. Techniques which enable human beings to overcome the mental obstacles that undermine peak performance at critical moments are useful to everyone--if only they had access to them and could understand how to apply them.

We (the Rivers Lake gang) need to hear from people trained in Sports Psychology. Send us an email if you or someone you know has experience in this field:

In the meantime, you cannot go wrong with the wise one-liners of Samuel Johnson. Check him out, and tell him Shannon Sharpe sent you.

A portrait painting of Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds