Don’t overlook the ‘Russell Wilson Effect’

Tacoma News TribuneFebruary 3, 2014 

What is it that makes the size of a person? Height? Weight? Status in the world?

It is often said that “heart” cannot be measured, but if it could, I think that would be the measure. In a world where visual appearances largely define us, and superficial information form our perceptions, it is sometimes difficult for those with the most to offer to be noticed. For this exact reason, however, I feel those with the greatest obstacles to overcome end up doing so with their great heart.

Ever since I was a young child, I knew I was the small kid. It didn’t take for me to step into kindergarten to realize that everyone else around was me was not only bigger, but quite bigger.

Being the small kid was part of what I was, because in many ways it formed my social identity. However, it was not “who” I was. Being small did not limit me; it fueled me.

Knowing that I would have to prove myself twice as much to receive any respect was a reality in a world that preys on those who show weakness. This is what drove me in many aspects of my life, but none better exemplified than through my life of sports.

When it came to sports, what I lacked in size I made up with in skill. Where others were stronger, I was more aggressive. For those who were faster, I outhustled. My size physically helped with quickness and staying low to the ground, but it really helped with so much more. The effect of being small can do many things to a person, but if nurtured with the right attitude it can make them great.

In basketball, for example, I was never big enough to layup or shoot over people, so instead I focused on how to become a great team player. I learned how to pass and get other players open. Where some players were always looking for their opportunity to score, I was always looking for our team’s opportunity to score.

On defense I was not a shot blocker, so I stayed low to the ground and stole the ball from the taller dribblers. I read their intentions to get into passing lanes and create turnovers.

Had I been bigger, the development of these skills would not have been as vital to my success, and I could get by with more size but less skill. But it was my size that made me develop my skills, strengthen my work ethic and become an all-around better athlete.

This phenomenon I experienced is not limited to being undersized, and most definitely not limited to sports. Many of us have shortcomings that we wish did not exist, but the reality is that they do. To look at these flaws and see opportunity, motivation and potential is what moves the spectrum of who we are from “flawed” toward “flawless.”

I would like to call this phenomenon the “Russell Wilson Effect,” as the Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback is the embodiment of the idea that the only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves. People overlooked him because they could not measure the most important thing when it comes to size: the size of his heart.

In a way the “Russell Wilson Effect” affects us all. We can be easily overlooked for reasons outside of our control. When given the chance, though, we can surprise people by just how much we can do. All it takes is one look at the leader of our Seattle Seahawks to be reminded that our true size cannot be measured.

Our true size is our heart, and that can only be found on the inside.

Ben Kastenbaum of Tacoma, a graduate of Stadium High School and the University of Puget Sound, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email him at benkastenbaum@gmail.com.

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