The dominant sports media personality in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for most of the last 75-plus years never played any of the games he wrote about and never made it to college, much less journalism school. But he became one of the most popular newspaper and radio personalities in town, with a broadcast style that was no more polished than his writing style. And he blew away all competitors because of his network of relationships and pure doggedness.
Sid Hartman went to that great stadium in the sky on Oct. 18, at age 100. Affectionately known around Minnesota and the entire sports world by his first name, Sid may never make it to any sports Halls of Fame, but if they ever get around to building a Networking Hall of Fame, he would be the first one they would call.
Sid never quit working and scooping his competitors. If you demonstrated any athletic talent in Minnesota, he knew who you were by the time you were in high school, because he called you. You became fodder for his column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, or he interviewed you on one of his innumerable sports shows on radio or TV. He kept calling. He followed you through high school. He knew your background, your record, your coach. He tracked you through college. He tracked you through the pros. He even tracked you when your athletic career was over.
Once you were a part of Sid’s team, you never got cut. You were a part of it for life, as I was for 70 years. You became a “close personal friend,” his reference to anyone in his vast network. He knew more about athletes, coaches and owners than any sportswriter anywhere. And when some of these people became really big-time pro stars, coaches and executives, he had greater access to them -- and often to other stars through them -- than anyone else because he dug his well before he was thirsty.
Talent is a gift, but like many gifts, we often take it for granted. If Sid Hartman had applied equal energy, dedication, and perseverance to another career -- such as sales -- I’m positive he would have achieved the same great success he attained as a sportswriter.
Competition is what made Sid Hartman the best sports reporter around. He hated to get beaten to a scoop. Sid was an inspiration not only to legions of sports personalities, but also to his readers and listeners, who appreciated his work ethic and dogged pursuit of a good story. He understood that slacking off would take away his edge. He saw sports reporting as a competition in itself. He almost always won.
No matter what industry you are in, competition is healthy. It keeps you sharp. It improves quality. Competition is like exercise; it makes you better.
Many people don’t seek out competition because of the fear of losing. They give up too easily and then never really find out how good they can be. Welcome competition so you can gauge how good you are and where you need to improve. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
I like to say, if you can’t win, make the person ahead of you break the record.
Outsmarting the competition has taken on a whole new meaning, with competition being stiffer than ever. As we watch longtime successful businesses crumble under economic pressure, we must constantly look for ways not only to survive, but to thrive.
Consider the two hikers who spotted a mountain lion stalking them. One of the hikers calmly sat down, took off his hiking boots and began putting on his running shoes.
“What good are those shoes going to do you?” asked his buddy. “You can’t outrun a mountain lion!”
Lacing up his shoes, the friend responded, “I don’t have to outrun the lion. I just have to outrun you.”
Sid outran the lions every day. He was a competitor to the end.
Mackay’s Moral: The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s competition.