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Illogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits

Illogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits PDF

Author: Emmanuel Acho

Publisher: Flatiron Books


Publish Date: March 22, 2022

ISBN-10: 1250836441

Pages: 256

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

In March 2015, I was feeling great about my future in the National Football League. We were between seasons waiting for drafts, cuts, and re-signs to make up next year’s team, but I wasn’t worried about my place on the field. I was the guy, rated the thirty-third overall linebacker in a league of thirty-two teams, each with two starting linebackers—I deserved another year with the Philadelphia Eagles. I knew I could hang and I felt sure my team knew it, too.
Being sure was all the sweeter because I had been cut the year before. Then, I’d had a feeling it was coming. The coach had his favorites and I was not one of them, no matter how well I performed. I invited my parents to the final game of the preseason because I suspected it might be my last chance to show them that, yes, I could play pro ball. I led the team in tackles that day. But sure enough, the next morning, after I left brunch with my parents, my phone rang. It was Howie Roseman, the general manager. He told me to return my playbook; the team was releasing me. “It’s not that you’re not fast,” he began, “we just found someone a little bit faster. It’s not that you’re not strong,” he continued, “we just found someone a little bit stronger. It’s not that you’re not quick,” he concluded, “we just found someone a little bit quicker.” I laughed to keep from crying.
Two weeks later, after one of the starters suffered an injury, they re-signed me. And even though there were three other linebackers ahead of me on the roster, I started that game and finished the 2014 season as a starter. I was more prepared, a better player. By March 2015, I felt sure even the politics of favoritism couldn’t hold me back.
Then everything changed.
I had complained about continued pain in my thumb earlier in the week, after a sprain during a pre-season game. (A thumb sprain may not sound debilitating to you, but when your job is to grapple with three-hundred-pound men, trust me, it can be.) An X-ray showed there was no fracture, but I knew something was wrong. Due to the demands of the NFL, however, I suited up for the next game, and three plays in, I heard a pop.
The pain was unbearable. Both physically and emotionally. I realized I had likely broken my thumb, but worse than that, I had shattered my dream. If the break was major, the doctors would need to put pins into my thumb to keep the bone together. I had been injured before, so I knew that the amount of hardware in my hand would determine the extent of my rehab. Pins would protrude out of the skin and cause me to miss more than four weeks, over a quarter of the season. If the break was minor, though, screws would be placed on the bone under the skin and I could be back playing in a week or two, just in time for the start of the regular season. After I came out of surgery, I asked my doctor one question: “Pins or screws?”
His answer would determine whether the team would see me as expendable and use my roster spot on someone else—ending not only my season and time with the Eagles, but most likely my entire NFL career—or whether they would keep me on the roster for the season. Sure I might have to play with a club on my hand, but the check would cash and my job status would be secure.
“Pins or screws?” I asked again. His answer: “Pins.”
I knew what was coming. A few moments later, my phone rang. It was the GM, the same person who had called me the year before, telling me again that it was time to go. I got up off the operating table, took off my gown, and caught a ride back to the team’s practice facility.
I was less than an hour removed from surgery and still foggy from the pain meds, but upon arrival I was asked to return my playbook and empty my locker immediately. I turned in my team-issued iPad and received, in exchange, a large black garbage bag. I awkwardly opened my locker with my left hand—my right hand heavily bandaged and punctured with pins—and item by item dumped out the memorabilia into this black hole. As the bag filled up, my emptiness increased.
I spent the next few weeks rehabbing and the subsequent months training, waiting for a call from an NFL team, any team. I remember stealing some traffic cones from a parking lot in Philly and using them to do drills in the alley behind my apartment. I found empty fields to train on. My former teammates were making millions; I was making ends meet with the severance check the team gave me when they sent me packing. It was embarrassing. Though I was not seeing a psychologist at the time, the word “depressed” crossed my mind on more than one occasion. It was dark, cold, and lonely, and I had no end in sight. My friends in the NFL were busy playing and my non-football friends didn’t live in Philly. I was alone. I was sad. I didn’t know where to go.
It all felt like something I’d feared my whole life: failure. From the injury, to the release, to the solo workouts—I saw the life I’d worked so hard to attain, the success I’d competed for with my whole body, mind, and soul, slipping away. And though it wouldn’t be the last time I stepped on an NFL field as a football player, it was a major turning point in my life.
During that time, I had a decision to make. I could either do the logical thing: sit, train, and wait for a team to call me back—or I could do the illogical thing: pour all that energy into something completely new that I had no experience in. Eventually, I made up my mind to choose the latter and decided to pursue a career in media. Prior to this I had put my head down, worked hard, sacrificed my individuality for the sake of the team, but now I knew I needed to step out, use my voice, and share what was inside of me with the larger world. This decision changed everything. Instead of chasing a dashed dream, I began to believe in my heart there was something more to me. More to my story. I just needed to be brave enough not to follow old patterns and instead reach for new ones. I needed to be illogical.
A little over two years later, I rejoined the Eagles to celebrate the Super Bowl. Except this time, it wasn’t as an NFL player, it was as a television analyst.
Fast-forward to July 2020. After the tragic murder of George Floyd, I got another call from the Eagles’ general manager, now asking for my advice. The team wanted to make a statement but didn’t know what to say, so they asked me for help because I had been using my voice and platform to speak out against racism and I was now well-versed in the media landscape. They let me take control of their statement and make edits as I saw fit. I did. That same GM, the one who allowed me to be cut five times before I turned twenty-five, would call me again a few weeks later asking me to come speak to the entire team about how best to stand for justice in the midst of our world’s turmoil. My illogical path led me straight to my truest calling.
Before we go any further, let’s start with a working definition of what logic actually is. “Logic,” for the purpose of this book, is conventional wisdom. The thoughts, beliefs, and opinions held by the majority of people around you. But let’s break it down even further. The word “conventional” is derived from the word “convention.” What is convention? Our friends at Merriam-Webster tell us it’s “a general agreement about basic principles or procedures.” “Wisdom” is simply defined as “the fact of being based on sensible thinking.” Putting the pieces together, conventional wisdom is “a general agreement about basic principles or procedures based on sensible thinking.”
Let’s get historical for a second. For hundreds of years now, women have unfortunately been forced to chase ever-evasive standards of beauty. As soon as society has settled on one definition, it changes. This change subliminally forces women to adapt to the change and men to alter their taste in order to follow the mold of society. Allow me to prove it to you. The Italian Renaissance from 1400 to 1700 is known for connecting the ancient world to the modern world. It was the age in which the printing press, eyeglasses, and even the flush toilet were created. But the Renaissance era was also known for a distinct taste in beauty, vastly different from what we appreciate now. For a woman to be deemed “beautiful” in the Renaissance era she had to be pale with full hips, a full chest, and a rounded body. Interestingly enough, a high forehead was also a necessary ingredient to meet the epitome of beauty standards.

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