Play Your Last Song Like It's Your First Song

By: Bruce Wawrzyniak

StopwatchThis past Saturday night before the hockey game in Tampa, the Lightning – as part of their 25th anniversary season – celebrated the Stanley Cup-winning team from the 2004 Finals.  There was a pre-game ceremony, with players from that championship team brought back and even the coach, despite the fact that he is now leading the team who was the opponent two nights ago.  Pomp and circumstance was the order of the day for sure.  This was a day and a night to be excited even before the puck was dropped between the Bolts and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Then, yesterday in Dallas, before the Cowboys kicked off against the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback turned broadcaster Tony Romo was honored.  A current player narrated a video that was shown on the massive video board inside the stadium.  On one hand Romo was touched by the tribute and what it meant to him and his family, but on the other hand he needed to do the job that CBS now pays him to do.

That thought stuck with me as I watched that football game yesterday.  You hear coaches all the time across numerous sports say that you have to play for 60 minutes.  They’ll use the expression that you’ve got to go from whistle to whistle.  In other words, you start playing when the whistle blows to start the game and you don’t stop until the final whistle.  In the case of the aforementioned pre-game festivities, I was led to think about the players who get all fired up by these ceremonies and, as a result, are all riled up when the game starts.  They have an extra bounce in their step because of what they just witnessed during pre-game.  That’s understandable and to be expected, but what about much later on, say, by the midpoint of the third quarter?  Is that fire still there?

When you’re hired to play a gig, there’s always that general enthusiasm about starting a show.  How will the crowd be?  Maybe you have a new song or even just new strings on your guitar or perhaps even all new sound gear.  You’ve got a big smile on your face and are eager to fire people up with that great first song you can’t wait to open up with.

But what about when you’re two-and-a-quarter hours into your four-hour booking?  Is the fire and enthusiasm and energy still there?

Sports fans do a lot of complaining these days about the cost of tickets to attend games in person.  They then feel shortchanged if their team didn’t play from whistle to whistle.  These supporters expect to see the athletes who are getting paid big bucks to play, go the full 60 minutes.

People who are out watching and listening to you want to be entertained.  They expect that at that two-and-a-quarter hour mark you’re still going to be delivering what they came out for.  If the smoke from pre-game has evaporated along with your smile from singing the night’s first note and you’re just on cruise control, isn’t there, then, a need for a pep talk that fires you back up before you return from break so that you can deliver the same major league performance that the audience expected when they sat in their seats?  Give them what they’re anticipating from whistle to whistle.

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