It’s Tough In The Arena

My late brother, Mike Lynn, used to say to me, “Boy, it’s tough out there in the arena.” I was reminded of that while reading the Sports Section of the Star Tribune on July 25. In it, the columnist, Jim Souhan, was comparing the old Vikings facility to the new one and made this comment about my brother …
The “Gang of 10” owned the team and staged public fights over power and influence, as General Manager Mike Lynn sat in his office, smoking and looking over the practice fields, repeating his mantra: “It’s tough in the arena.”
I must admit, I was surprised to see that quote. I always thought that was a private saying Mike used to admonish his family members with. Now I realize he said that to others too. But what does it mean, ‘to be in the arena’? When my brother would say that to me, it was usually after he had been excoriated in the media for something he did or didn’t do. Think, Herschel Walker Trade.
I have a more sanguine view of being in the arena. I think of it in more positive terms, like one of our past presidents did. The actual source of the quote comes from a 1910 speech, “Citizenship in a Republic”, Teddy Roosevelt made at the Sorbonne, in Paris.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Why is it a good idea to venture out into the arena? That’s where the action is. That’s where the danger is. That’s where the chance of winning or losing is. That’s what a good life is really all about.