No. 119: I finally watched Jerry Maguire
I watched Jerry Maguire for the first time this week. Given the movie was released 27 years ago, you probably already know it’s about a big-time sports agent (Tom Cruise) who has a crisis of conscious, takes a risk, and gets his ass fired. If you didn’t, now you do.
I liked it — a lot. It’s not everyday I find myself spending the entire final act of a movie typing notes into my phone. Is it my favorite movie ever? No. Were there some cringey sections? Totally. But the movie was made in 1996, the year after I was born, and even then it’s more experimental and different than anything I’ve seen in a long time.
Like the main character, the movie takes risks.
The story begins when the über successful Jerry Maguire has an epiphany.
One of his athletes, a hockey player, gets hospitalized with a concussion. By today’s standards? Very serious. To Jerry’s 1996 C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) mindset? No biggie. Jerry tells the player, who literally just came to, that he’ll be back by the next game. But as Jerry leaves the hospital room, the hockey player’s son (a young Drake Bell) follows him to the elevator. It’s his dad’s, like, ninth concussion. Is Jerry really going to encourage him to keep playing?
It would take a tank to stop your dad, he says.
Fuck you, the kid says.
Sometimes epiphanies comes from within. Other times, from a child giving you the bird.
Jerry realizes his bullshit and rushes home. In a fit of inspiration he spends the night writing a 25-page mission statement focussed on goodness, integrity, and love. Sports agents are meant to champion their players and protect them in health and injury, aren’t they? Not squeeze them for every dollar then leave them in the gutter with a collapsed lung and a bleeding brain. The answer to the greed pervading the sports agency industry, Jerry concludes, is fewer clients, less money, better relationships. With that, he distributes his mission statement to everyone in the office.
Arriving at work the next day, he’s hailed as a visionary. The day after, he’s fired.
Cue the collapse of Jerry’s life as he knows it.
At times, he hates himself for his moment of stupid, high-minded optimism. Other times, he’s proud. At all times, though, he’s completely and utterly lost, spinning out of control as he ends things with his fiancé; proposes to a smitten secretary, the only person to follow him from his old agency; and scrambles to find some athlete, any athlete to represent.
Rough, to say the least.
But rough as it is, something beautiful is happening on-screen. The struggle he’s forced to endure because of his bold decision is intensely meaningful, much more so than if he hadn’t written the mission statement. Despite the stress, the financial ruin, and the humiliation, his act and the subsequent fallout lead to more personal growth, freedom, and happiness than he could have ever imagined had he stuck it out at Sports Management International a.k.a. SMI. Here was an adventure where, with no risk taken, there would have been none.
That possibility of inaction is one of the things that stuck with me the most after watching Jerry Maguire i.e. the parallel universe where he doesn’t publish his mission statement and the movie ends there, with everything staying the same as it was: fucked up.
Had he thrown his mission statement in the can, played it safe, and decided suppress how he really felt, he would have kept the money, the job, the stability, and the image of success. But what at what cost?
There’s a beautiful message there for anyone, but especially for your prone-to-inspiration writer.
Even though taking a risk may send your life in a tailspin according to the standard markers of success, if your intentions are good, that journey is guaranteed to be more meaningful and conducive to growth than continuing to live inauthentically or without belief in what you’re doing. Being honest, vulnerable, and true never leads a person astray, a fact that holds up even as society at large, preferring shallower values, makes doing the authentic thing feel like committing social suicide.
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That being authentic is a “risk” in the first place seems to suggest something deeper than just a fear of being kicked out of the tribe by unanimous decision. It implies there’s only one tribe a.k.a you’re either in, or you’re out.
This scarcity mindset is just plain wrong. Space for new ideas, new personalities, new styles of art is limitless, which is true also of the audiences that want to interact with new ides, new personalities, and new styles.
Where one tribe denies entry, another is looking for new members.
And if not?
Create your own tribe.
This idea has been driven home for me lately by my love of stand-up comedy.
There are many popular stand-up comedians, yet I find new ones almost every day, one of those being a comedian named of Rick Glassman.
Glassman is hilarious. I’ve been watching is podcast, Take Your Socks Off, nearly every day since I stumbled upon it last week. His style of humor is similar to how my friends and I talk and joke. He likes doing bits, as do I. In short, he’s creative, fun, and unapologetically himself. I love his stuff dearly and his podcast, in my estimation, is a smashing success.
Which is why it’s interesting to realize that, apparently, a good chunk of people don’t feel the same way.
Often his guests — people like Bill Burr, Chris D’Elia, etc. — will give him advice about how to improve his stand-up routine, or how he should practice more, etc. Sometimes, they’ll give him words of encouragement, which is interesting for me to hear since see him as a master of his craft. Glassman will have other guests on the show that are often less funny (I think) but that have attained more recognition, something he acknowledges in his genuinely inquisitive way. He talks about his successes with the same nonchalance that he talks about his failures i.e. he’s been asked not to come back to certain comedy clubs, and once he was asked to shorten his act.
For these reasons and more, watching his podcast endearing, confidence-inspiring, and eye-opening all at once. Here’s this dude that, to me, is one of the funniest people I’ve ever encountered because he is different, but who is “struggling” somewhat for that same reason.
Struggling in quotes because, is he?
Podcasting with an improve-like style, I understand, is different than stand-up, but I’m deeply enjoying his podcast — it may be the best I’ve ever found — and so are 171,000 other subscribers and counting. Glassman, it seems, is a case in point of someone being totally authentic and trusting the audience will come rather than being less than authentic to connect with whatever audience already exists.
There’s a number of issues with the second option, but perhaps the biggest? If Glassman altered himself to boost his popularity, I, and many others, would have never found in him something new, exciting, different, and inspiring. His commitment to himself, his unique style of stand-up, and his refusal to conform is his Jerry Maguire move, and its a breath of fresh air — or, air made fresh by the air purifier that’s ever-present in the living room from where he broadcasts.
My Jerry Maguire move? It’s this newsletter, my decision to go forth writing stories the way I want to write them (and publishing them here), saying the stuff I want to say, writing in my own voice.
(I wonder, by the way, what’s yours?)
The best part about going full Jerry Maguire? Once you make the move, it’s hard to reverse. The only way out then is through, which might seem rough at first; and ugly; and potentially ripe for regret. But what else is there to do? Live life half-committed? Half-heartedly? With half, or less than half, of yourself?
To me at least, there are no wrong moves if we can ask ourselves What feels like the right thing to do?, answer honestly, and act accordingly.
All that to say, take the risk. ♦
HEAR: “Palace/Curse” by The Internet feat. Tyler, The Creator & Steve Lacy. I can’t get enough of this song. It’s kind of a two-in-one. I really love the second part starting at around 2:50.
READ: WHAT IS THE LITERARY WORLD? by Christian Lorentzen
VIEW: Lamorne Morris (New Girl, WOKE) on Take Your Socks Off - #85
Thank you SO much for this piece. This message is one that needs dissemination. (I certainly needed to be reminded.)
I think Substack is turning out to be a lot of people's 'Jerry Maguire.' Quite inspiring for those of us who are building a following from nada.