Ryan Slabaugh: Those who are successful often swagger | SierraSun.com

Ryan Slabaugh: Those who are successful often swagger

By Ryan Slabaugh

Swagger. Just try it. Spike a football and wiggle your hips. Walk down the street with long strides and sway your shoulders. Peer over the newspaper you’re reading and eyeball someone like you just solved all of life’s answerless questions. Wink.

It’s something we don’t do often enough anymore. In sports, we credit swagger ” also called confidence ” with helping athletes win. Last weekend at the 2009 Winter Dew Tour, the best athletes on snow balleted in the air, but when they landed, those used to gold medals and World Cup titles had one thing the young’ins didn’t. Swagger.

In music, it means success. Old Spice caught on to those facts, combining musicians and athletes in an advertising campaign that poses the question: Can something designed to make your underarm smell better really enhance your performance?

As a country, one could argue we have lost our swagger. Love him or hate him, George W. Bush carried a swagger, perhaps the biggest swagger of any of the previous five or six leaders of the free world. “Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger,” Bush said during his presidency, adding, “which in Texas is called ‘walking.'”

But even the former Texas governor stopped his “walking” after our inflated economy got popped. What we learned from that was, and I will include Ken Lay and his legion of corporate disciples in this, is that if you get used to swaggering too much, you may forget to actually do anything to deserve the swagger. Our recent national lesson was simple: We never asked where all this money was actually coming from, so when it dried up, we couldn’t find the source to repair. Oops.

Obama had a swagger. Remember when he proclaimed “Yes we can,” to a nation? Those days are long gone. Evander Holyfield looked better after his fight against Tyson than most of the folks on CSPAN look these days. When our leaders lean into their microphones time and time again to proclaim, “This is crazy,” it does not instill the confidence in our general public to, say, leave the home, nevertheless put some oomph in our step.

You can’t just make up swagger, though. Like you can’t make up good chocolate cake.

It takes the right ingredients, but there’s more than one way to whip up a cake. We still have the goods as a country, as a state, and as a town. We have business owners who love what they do. We have leaders who really do want to make this a better place. And we have an education system full of the next generation, who thinks “Thou shalt recycle” is one of the 10 commandments. We have a society that communicates so well, kids teach their parents how to use the phone.

Many of you have probably already caught on to the irony that you’re reading this in a newspaper, which as an industry is looking more like a Brontosaurus who, after seeing a flash of light and hearing the sonic boom, wondered, “What the hell was that?”

And sure, we’re adjusting. And through that, we’re learning to get our swagger back.

We’re still good at telling true stories about people changing lives. And, there’s one other thing we do better than anyone, which is to be interested through a two-hour meeting about county budgets and the sewage system.

So follow our lead. Look inside. Find your strength. Tell someone about it. Tell us about it. Don’t make a bumper sticker that says, “Keep Tahoe Blue.” Instead, make one that says, “We’re keeping Tahoe Blue.”

Spike a football. Wink.

Ryan Slabaugh is the executive editor of the Sierra Sun. Call him at (530) 550-2650, e-mail him at rslabaugh@sierrasun.com, or comment on his column online.

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