What professional athletes can learn from Game of Thrones
HBO's Game of Thrones, based on the books of the same name, has taken the country by storm. The show often reaches over 7.2 million viewers live (and untold amounts stream the show after its first airing), and has led to a 3% increase in revenue for Time Warner. It is, unarguably, one of the most influential shows of our time.
This should come as no surprise, because the show's complex storylines reveal much about human nature, competition, and power. It makes sense, then, that Game of Thrones offers valuable lessons for athletes. When you're in the middle of football season, you don't have time to binge-watch 4-seasons of a TV show, so we collected the important lessons from Game of Thrones in this handy guide.
Lesson 1: Finish off the opposition
All Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne had to do was finish the job. If he did, he would take his revenge. Beneath him was Gregor Clegane, known throughout Westeros as the Mountain. Instead, Oberyn took his time finishing the fight — walking around Clegane’s immobile body.
If you watch Game of Thrones, you know what happened next. Clegane tripped Oberyn, landed a punch that knocked out Oberyn’s teeth, and then managed to squash his face with his bare hands.
Oberyn could have finished the fight, but he chose not to.
Last month, the Tennessee Titans held a 28-10 lead over the Cleveland Browns at halftime. But the Titans failed to score a single point in the second half. Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer managed to lead the Browns to a 29-28 lead, completing the comeback.
Lesson 2: Don't judge an opponent by his/her size
Tyrion Lannister might not be the strongestor the tallest, but by using his wits, he managed to save King’s Landing in the second season of Game of Thrones. Athletes like Lionel Messi (5’ 7”), Allen Iverson (6’ 0”), and Darren Sproles (5’ 6”) know what it’s like to be underestimated because of their size. You don’t want to be the player who underestimates an opponent because he/she is short. It might not end well.
So far this season, Sproles is averaging nearly 7 yards per carry for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Lesson 3: There is no such thing as loyalty
Chances are, most are going to look out for themselves first. It’s why Littlefinger is feared by most on Game of Thrones. Who does he work for? Nobody. He works for himself. The same goes for sports teams. The Chicago Bears didn’t want to bring back Brian Urlacher, despite his playing in Chicago for his entire 13-year career. It’s why the Colts drafted Andrew Luck instead of sticking with Peyton Manning until he retires, and why the Broncos were so eager to use him to replace Tebow. There is no such thing as loyalty.
Lesson 4: Never feel safe in someone else's home
When Robb and Catelyn Stark stayed at Walder Frey’s castle, they thought they were safe. You probably remember what happened at the Red Wedding. If you don’t, Arya can sum it up for you:
In sports, just substitute knives and arrows for screaming fans and you get a different kind of hostile environment. Any time an opposing team enters University of Phoenix Stadium, they’re in for another Red Wedding – the Cardinals are .900 at home.
Lesson 5: The rich can always outbid you
When Tyrion faced a trial by combat in season 1, Bronn quickly volunteered to fight on his behalf. Bronn, of course, wanted gold. Bronn won, and the two began a mutually beneficial relationship — Bronn protected Tyrion and Tyrion paid Bronn handsomely.
However, in season 4, when Tyrion faced another trial by combat, Bronn refused to fight on his behalf. Tyrion’s sister, who wasn’t in jail at the time, was able to offer Bronn a castle if he didn’t fight for Tyrion, while Tyrion could only promise gold and gratitude. Bronn took the castle.
In 2000, a young Alex Rodriguez left the Seattle Mariners because the Texas Rangers offered him a 10-year, $252 million contract. In 2011, Albert Pujols departed St. Louis for a 10-year, $254 million contract in Los Angeles. Money talks, gratitude walks.
Lesson 6: Honor doesn't always win out
“Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died,” Ser Jorah tells Daenerys in season 3.
Just like in Game of Thrones, honor doesn’t guarantee success in sports. In 2007, the New England Patriots were caught taping New York Jets’ coaches during a game. Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick admitted to taping opposing teams’ signals since 2000. I’m not saying that’s the reason for the Patriots’ dynasty in the early 2000s. But it just goes to show, success often don’t care about honor.
This list goes on. Lance Armstrong used PEDs. Tim Donaghy gambled on games. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson rigged the World Series. There is, apparently, no honor among athletes.
Sean Wagner-McGough is a writer for Next Impulse Sports