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Making The Most Of Your Moment: Oakland Raiders’ Antonio Brown Should Seek Advice From Mike Tyson

For the past few days, it’s been quite fashionable to bag on the Oakland Raiders’ Antonio Brown. After all, we’ve learned that his foot problem is possible frostbite from a cryogenic therapy gone wrong (because he didn’t wear socks as advised) and his favorite helmet is now officially outlawed by the NFL—prompting Brown to declare that he won’t play without his preferred head gear.

Pundits everywhere are decrying Brown’s antics, labeling him a headcase, pronouncing the Raiders’ season dead-on-arrival, and just generally enjoying the social media schadenfreude common to our current day and age. It would be easy to jump on the train, especially after writing about Brown and his baggage back in March.

As someone who loves studying both teamwork and the individual pursuit of Greatness, this story is absolutely maddening to me.

But I don’t write today to say, “I told you so,” and I certainly am not here to bury Antonio Brown.

I’m here to offer a better pathway for the talented (but troublesome) receiver.

Well, not me technically. There’s a far better—if unconventional—guide for the journey that stretches before Brown. Now that an arbitrator has decided against Brown in his helmet grievance, and Brown has posted on Instagram his acceptance of the decision, there’s a chance for Antonio Brown to wake up from this nightmare and make the most of his moment.

And he need look no farther from the best football story of the last week, Iron Mike Tyson.

If you did a double-take on that sentence, then you probably haven’t read the absolutely amazing piece from ESPN’s Chris Low about Tyson’s visit to the Alabama Crimson Tide’s football program. On the invitation of head coach Nick Saban, Tyson went to Tuscaloosa to talk with the Tide about what it takes to be a champion.

While Tyson’s observations on that subject are worth reading on their own, it was something else that Tyson said that made me think of Antonio Brown.

As he was discussing his many mistakes during his time in the spotlight, Tyson said, “It was all an illusion. I had no reason to show love to anybody. The more I hurt people, the more people loved me. The more I knocked guys out, the more I broke their ribs, broke their eye sockets, the more people loved me. So what was I to think? I hurt everybody. I hurt women. I hurt my friends. I hurt strangers. I had no concept of myself. I didn’t know who I was. I was this boxer who hurt people. I always had to be ‘Iron Mike.’

“You gotta love yourself before you can love one another and your teammates. There was a time I didn’t love myself.”

If that sounds a little touchy-feely, hear me out—what Tyson is talking about is HIS life-defining moment, a wakeup call that jarred him out of self-destructive behaviors that were wrecking his career and personal life.

Sound familiar?

Tyson was telling the Tide was that when the wakeup call came, he had to answer it or face a chilling thought: spending the rest of his life being known as the monster that so many—including himself—made him out to be.

Brown may not be known as a monster, but he sure as hell isn’t known as a team-first, distraction-free guy. It’s why so many people are piling on him right now: he’s prime fodder for our endless cycle of outrage and self-righteousness.

But here’s the thing—I’m betting that if they were honest with themselves, many of the people dumping on Brown are facing wakeup calls of their own in their marriage, in their job, maybe with their kids. It’s one thing to see clearly the mistakes others are making, but it’s better to see them in yourself and own up to them.

What about you? Are you facing a wakeup call in your life? When you look at your work, or your co-workers, are they begging you to pay attention to warning signs you’re not even seeing?

That’s where Antonio Brown finds himself. What he’ll do is anyone’s guess.

Tyson’s transformation didn’t come while he was in the prime of his career—his was a post-career awakening that led him on a journey of self-examination and soul-searching. The end result has been a different Tyson, one capable of poking fun at his formerly furious self in movies while also dispensing sage advice to young athletes dreaming of success and fame and fortune.

Brown’s wakeup call is coming when he’s still in his prime, still capable of changing the narrative about him as a player and a man. Brown has the opportunity to maximize his moment by minimizing the mayhem; if he misses this chance, he’ll spend the rest of his life with maximum regret.

Like Tyson and Brown, we all have moments when we’re on the receiving end of a wakeup call. The question is what will we do when that call comes?

I promise this is the first time I’ve ever typed this sentence, but I hope we’ll follow Mike Tyson’s example and answer the call before it’s too late. We’ll soon see what Antonio Brown chooses.

As for you, will you answer that call and be better?

Or will you ignore it and be sorry?

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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