Tough – (adjective) tough [tuf] (tough*er, tough*est)
- Difficult – physically or mentally challenging
- Very strong – physically or mentally strong and possessing great endurance
- Durable – able to withstand much use, strain, or wear without breaking, tearing, or other damage
No doubt one of the most common words used to describe the sport of professional football. Perhaps this game, that challenges the very boundaries of both mental and physical capacities of endurance and durability, attracts some of the toughest athletes our country has to offer.
Is it this toughness that allows them to perform under great degrees of stress and strain? Is it the physical makeup of their bodies to run, jump, punch, explode, reach, throw and grab that displays toughness? Is it the furrowed brow of scowling concentration, the fixed and focused eyes on the ball in flight, or the calm quietness before a game winning kick that that defines this coveted attribute?
The very word is so “overused” to describe the game and its elements, even the players begin to believe they have “Superman-like” qualities on and off the field; in the way they respond to pressures from the media, the fans, and life in general. “Gotta be tough”, “Put on a tough face”, “Just gotta tough it out”. Read their tweets – “Tough S*#%”, “Tough Dude”, “Tough break”.
Don’t get me wrong, having played, coached and managed the sport throughout most of my adult life, professional football players ARE some of the toughest men I’ve ever been around. The physical pain and mental strain placed upon these young athletes is enormous. Yes, even for the amount of money they’re paid.
But let’s take this in context, there ARE some very TOUGH individuals and professions out there that to me even rival professional football. By no means does our sport monopolize the word.
A different definition
One of my MMA instructors at L.A. Boxing of Parker, Colorado, has come to personify the word “TOUGH” through his out of the gym occupation. Joel Ishmael works with K-9 Alliance of Colorado Springs, a company dedicated to training drug detection and security patrol dogs for Police and Department of Defense needs.
Not only are the men and women who handle these dogs “tough as nails”, but the canines themselves are absolutely the toughest creatures you’ll ever encounter. I guarantee you just one of these dogs would send an entire NFL football field scrambling! All twenty-two players, coaches, officials, ball boys, cheerleaders, cameramen, sideline reporters and even the “chain gang” crew would run for cover.
But back to Joel. This instructor of mixed martial arts, the guy that puts us through a ringer of a workout and laughs about it…well he runs from the dogs with the intent to get caught. Like professional football players, Joel wears a protective uniform, but this does nothing more than keep these dogs from ripping the very flesh off his bones. The beating he takes from just a single session of training is well….TOUGH. Black and blue, puncture wounds, cringe when you look tough.
The amount of pain one of these highly trained athletes (dogs) can inflict makes an afternoon of running around on the football field look like a child’s recess. Tougher yet is that Joel is the opposing player and in this game, he can’t fight back. Not once have I seen where the dog gets the other end of the altercation. I asked Joel if he gets nervous, afraid the dogs might forget he’s just a “tackling dummy” at practice? “Heck yeah!” But he keeps going back for more.
Next time you describe going over the middle on a quick slant, stepping up inside versus the blitz, or taking on a double team at the goal line as TOUGH, remember the dogs don’t let go (of Joel Ishmael) until they’re told to. Now that’s tough!