Matt Kemp made his 2006 debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers with lots of hype. The young center fielder was billed as a future star who was destined to become a premier baseball player. Through 2009, Kemp proved the experts right. Each year his stats steadily improved. But then came the disaster that was 2010, the year in which his career took a nose dive. He argued with the managerial staff and general manager and didn't display the same intensity and effort as in the past. As the saying goes, "the stats don't lie." His offensive production dipped, especially his batting average. It was the worst of his 5 year career. His baserunning was suspect, and he was a liability in the outfield.
A couple of theories have been suggested as reasons for his offensive and defensive decline. In addition to his contentious relationship with the Dodgers front office and coaching staff, perhaps he became overconfident and felt that extra practice and training was unnecessary. In Dodgertown, however, they blamed last season's poor showing on his ex-girlfriend Rihanna. Team officials felt that the pop star was too much of a distraction for him, and that he wasn't capable of juggling the responsibilities of playing baseball and dating a pop star. Now that Rihanna and Kemp are no longer dating, the Dodgers are thrilled to have the "old" Kemp back.
In blaming Rihanna for Kemps' off year, I believe that Dodger management is barking up the wrong tree. It certainly hasn't offered any evidence to support its allegations that she was the cause of his poor performance. More importantly, aren't Dodger officials familiar with the saying that "behind every great man is a great woman"? (I guess the Mccourt's divorce has affected the entire staff's psyche!)
The book of Proverbs attests to the benefits of a having a committed partner. "A man who finds a wife has found good." Indeed, Proverbs dedicates an entire chapter to the woman of valor, a person whose dedication and commitment to God strengthens her relationship with her husband. And who doesn't remember what God told Abraham: "Whatever Sarah says, heed her voice." A spouse has the ability to help us develop and perfect our skills. Their input, advice and encouragement can assist us in realizing our potential. The Bible views a partner as an asset not a liability.
Admittedly, the Bible does recognize the possibility that a significant other can hold us back from achieving greatness. Ecclesiastes, in its not-so-subtle fashion, states, "And I find that a woman is more bitter than death. ... whoever pleases God shall escape her." Indeed, tradition tells us that the biblical figure Korach, who, along with 250 men died in their failed and misguided attempt to overthrow Moses, would not have led the protest without his wife's cajoling.
Yes, there are some spouses that can be too much of a distraction sometimes causing us to lose focus, determination and the willpower necessary to succeed in our professions. And occasionally a spouse may make our lives feel more bitter than death. But most of the time, a spouse is our biggest advocate and resource. To that end, it would be wise to seek a partner not only for their physical beauty, but for beauty that's found in the depths of their heart.
In the final analysis, however, to claim that a spouse is the cause for one's failure is a cop-out. It is nothing more than an attempt to pass the blame for one's own shortcomings. Every person is faced with adversity on occasion and when those situations arise, it takes focus, concentration, effort and determination to overcome the difficulties. True stars in any walk of life confront challenges, some confidently and others nervously, and prevail. Those that shrink in the face of life's challenges will never achieve greatness. A professional athlete, lawyer, doctor, teacher or parent who blames his or her sub-par performance on anything other than lack of determination, drive or talent is simply making excuses.
For most of us, our relationships with our spouses and significant others are fulfilling and rewarding and provide us with additional incentive to succeed in our chosen fields of endeavor. I know that is certainly true in my own life. For the unlucky few, their personal relationships may be challenging and draining. The fact remains, however, that success in our careers and in life is solely up to us. To his credit, and unlike his employers, Kemp never blamed his poor showing in 2010 on Rihanna. He put it on himself. And he has overcome. That's why he is playing great baseball and, hopefully, will continue to do so for many years. He better, because us Dodger fans are antsy; we haven't celebrated a World Series title in more than 20 years.