The football world recently mourned the passing of the Dutch Master, Johan Cruyff. PDP contributor and son-in-law of Johan, Todd Beane shares his personal tribute to the great man, poetically describing the impact of mentors and heroes.
We do not honor our heroes because they are flawless.
We do not mourn our idols for their perfection.
We weep their passing because despite their flaws our mentors carry us forward to triumphs unforeseen. Our most cherished mortals nurture a vision deep within us, harnessing a power we have not yet known. Our leaders are human and in that humanity we know them to be one of us who took the time to care for all of us.
It is not the hubris of Ulysses that repels us, but his faith in victory that inspires us. When we need courage, he finds bravery in the midst of our timidity. When we fear defeat, he finds boldness to defy our resignation. And while the medicinal waters of honor may be bitter, we drink deeply knowing that apathy is a thief in the shadows.
…I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, …
I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known…
(Ulysses, Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
The best among us redesign our fate, knowing that even destiny is malleable. We may believe it to have been fortune shifting a random breeze toward us, but we know better when we bury those who grasped the winds of fate and wrestled with the lions of our lineage.
Coincidence is logical. (Johan Cruijff)
It is not by chance that great warriors arrive at times of reconstruction and redefinition.
There’s only one moment in which you can arrive in time. If you’re not there, you’re either too early or too late. (Johan Cruijff)
An Amsterdam beleaguered by the battlefields of war defiantly marches toward prominence on the fields of sport. Pain yields to a collective pride. A nation rebuilt aligns its orange with innovation. Johan was and will always be the boy who lost his father but helped us find ourselves on those cobblestones streets.
A Catalunya subjected to dictatorial whims recovers an identity profound. Football may be a game, but not to those who find freedom within the serenades of “Visca el Barca; Visca Catalunya!” Johan was and will always be that rebellious sage who reclaimed our Jordi and who taught us that winning is a state of mind.
And as we struggle, we come to understand that our fortunes are not written in the stars but crafted with our own hearts and hands. We do not fool ourselves into complacency. We no longer are lost in our failures, but find in them the very strength by which we will triumph.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
(Ulysses, Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
As legends speak, we listen. We seek wisdom in each whisper.
It is better to go down with your own vision than someone else’s. (Johan Cruijff)
We choose loyalty while others doubt us for doing so. While the critics breed, we wonder, we twist and we turn into our best selves – gladiators of competition and compassion. And the most noble begin to take note.
Some years ago word reached me concerning your proficiency, of which everybody constantly spoke. At that time I began to have a very high regard for you… For I had learned that you had not merely mastered the discoveries of the ancient astronomers uncommonly well but had also formulated a new cosmology. (A letter to Copernicus from Nicholas von Schonberg, Archbishop of Capua, 1536.)
As legends depart, we stay. We must.
It is neither in pity nor in sorrow that we honor our professors. Our own journey remains. Where we venture is a journey of one, but where our heroes have carried us is a journey of a generation.
May each sailor on this great earth find a lifting gale in his Ulysses. May each scholar find a Copernicus to become the center of her celestial revolution. And may each young footballer find a Cruijff that will change the game forever.
In Loving Memory of Hendrik Johannes Cruijff , 1947-2016
With hope for Chantal, Jesjua, Gianluca, Jordan, Shae, Alina and Natalia