We teach selflessness in team sports, but celebrate individual accomplishments even more.
The pull between “me” and “we” is a paradox that naturally arises in competition. We want an athlete to place the team before themselves while simultaneously judging an entire career on a person’s individual performance.
The tension between these poles gets diminished during good times, since we can easily celebrate the team and the athlete when both are successful—but what do we do when the two are at odds with one another?
No stranger to difficult situations, Tony Romo finds himself caught in the crosshairs of this tension. Coming off yet another injury, the 36-year-old quarterback has watched from the sideline as rookie Dak Prescott has dazzled on the field.
Romo’s statement demonstrates three behaviors that model what being a great teammate looks like, three selfless choices worth emulating when confronted with the tension of “me” vs. “we.”
Choosing the Truth Over Perception Management
Romo was honest with his situation from the beginning of his press conference. His prepared statement provided truth that was personal and vulnerable, yet still professional.
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He told the truth by describing the first half of the season as “emotional,” and his absence from the team as “soul-crushing.”
He told the truth by recognizing the distraction his status had become.
He told the truth regarding the reality of the situation after his injury and his desire to still play the game he loves.
He told the truth—and one that players never acknowledge publicly—that his replacement deserves to keep playing and the team is playing great in his own absence.
These powerful statements demonstrate how much Tony Romo cares for his team, football, and his desire to play a role in both—but indicate perhaps even more his willingness to embrace the truth of the current situation in spite of the pain it means for him.
His honesty spoke truth into a potentially divisive situation, quelling a narrative of division that could have been detrimental to his team’s success.
Proverbs 12:17 says, “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness speaks deceitfully.”
In speaking honestly about his situation instead of covering for his own reputation, Tony Romo chose a narrative in which he can be present for his teammates and help them accomplish what they have set out to achieve together—even if it comes at the cost of his personal goals.
Choosing Words to Build One Another Up
After honestly addressing the challenges he has faced, Romo acknowledged how the NFL works and affirmed Prescott’s performance to this point, saying, “He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right.”
When we lose something that was once ours it is easy to play the blame game, pitting our situation on specific people or factors that we do not control.
Calling out teammates, coaches, or others when we are left in a position we do not desire is not only detrimental to our playing career, but our teams’ as well.
The writer of Ephesians proclaims, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). This passage reminds us that our words can build up or tear down those around us. Indeed, we always have a choice to make regarding our use of words in these circumstances.
Romo did not have to initiate addressing the media regarding this situation, nor did he have to recognize the exceptional play of Prescott to this point, or his own desire to still be competing.
But in publically acknowledging these realities he graciously accepted his new role and built up a teammate in the process.
He chose to use his words to strengthen his team, not diminish or undermine it.
Choosing to Serve Others from a Different Role
In speaking of his current situation, Romo also addressed both the past and his future. Romo compared his current situation to when he first took over the starting job for veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
He said, “But what is clear is that I was that kid once, stepping in, having to prove yourself. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. […] And if I remember one thing from back then, it’s the people that helped me along when I was young.”
Capitalizing on this theme, Romo stated his plan for the future, declaring, “And if I can be that to Dak, you know, I’ve tried to be and I will be going forward. We all know something magical is happening to our team.”
In pledging to aid his successor, Tony Romo recognized that his work is not yet done in Dallas.
Tony Romo may not be starting on Sunday, but his gifts and knowledge of football can still aid and support his team. In this role, he is illustrating the call of 1 Peter 4:10, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
Even when the goals of the team override our individual desires, we can use our gifts and skills to support one another, being good stewards of the talents our Creator has bestowed on us.
Dealing with the Inner Man
Romo concluded his press conference saying:
“I feel like we all have two battles, or two enemies going on. One with the man across from you, the second is with the man inside of you. I think once you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn’t matter. And I think that’s what we’re all trying to do.”
Romo’s entire statement vulnerably displayed his own attempt to control the inner man, and at least in this circumstance, he appeared to be victorious.
In honestly building up a teammate playing his own position and committing himself to the goals of the Cowboys, Tony Romo modeled what it looks like to put teamwork and teammates before individual accolades.
For this he should be celebrated.