Thomas A. McGonagle
Thomas A. McGonagle

Thomas A. McGonagle

GridIronOps

GridIronOps

A DevOps/Football Story about Identity and the Importance of Practice and how it Shaped who I am.

Thomas A. McGonagle's photo
Thomas A. McGonagle
·Jul 12, 2022·

4 min read

"Once you've wrestled, everything in life is easy." - Dan Gable (Gold Medal Olympian and Legendary Wrestling Coach)

I wrestled. It helped immensely in Football and was the reason I was elected the first team Left Offensive Tackle Middlesex league all-star. I went on to play in Division II at Bentley University in the competitive Northeast-10 Conference. Division II Football is fast. People don't realize it, but it is only mili-seconds slower than Division I. The athletes are more minor but very, very fast.

I find people are familiar with the position primarily from the excellent movie "The Blind Side" with Sandra Bullock. The film is impressive, but the book is ten times better. The book talks about the invention of the Outside Linebacker position as personified by Lawrence Taylor, who is widely considered the most outstanding defensive player in the history of Football. The book talks about Joe Theismann's gruesome leg break in 1985 and how much LT enjoyed doing that to Joe T.

Simply put, Lawrence Taylor was a murderer with a license to kill. His 142 career sacks are a testament to this. According to the book, the big, fast, strong Left OT position was invented to mitigate these murderers from the quarterbacks' blindside. To say the Left OT position protects the blind side isn't exactly accurate. The real job of the Left OT position is to beat the shit out of the other team's toughest player, to break their will, and to try to break their legs every single play. To accomplish this, you basically have to become something WORSE than a murderer.

To harness this and prepare for weekly battles on the gridIron, I had to cross-train in Judo and Boxing throughout college. And competed and practiced both throughout the Football off-season. Shutting down a big, fast, tough outside linebacker requires enormous amounts of preparation, and the sport of Wrestling enforces this better I'd argue than anything else. You have to practice a wrestling move at least 1,000 times at full speed before you can hit it in a match or Football game. Practice at this level and quality also provides the athlete with a tremendous amount of self-confidence and this was the key to beating back the axe murderer outside linebackers. To put it simply, when I was 22 the thousands of hours of training and practice had me believing I was essentially invincible and that I could take 99.9% of humankind. I even went so far as to tattoo "Molon Labe", the classic expression of defiance said by Leonidas to the Persian king Xerxes meaning "come take". I had it tattooed on my legs and was meant to tell the world, "go ahead and try me, it'll be the last thing you ever do".

This is what I understand the quote above by Dan Gable to be about. Its about the importance of practice. Once someone has synthesized the fact that full-speed practice is critical to everything, life does suddenly become easier and more manageable. Confidence is everything in life and sports. Football required an enormous amount of extracurricular cross-training in order to be competitive. Upon reflection, DevOps has required a similar amount of cross-training and purpose. DevOps has been so frenetic that I have felt that I had to re-skill every 1-2 years. I have essentially re-skilled 7 times in the last 7 years. Being good at Football and DevOps became not only part of, but my actual identity. Twenty years after I stopped playing Football, I still weirdly identify as a Football player. Similarly, I own DevOps in a way I rarely see others do. Being a Football player and a DevOps Solutions Architect are part of my identity, and today I am pleased to announce that I am starting a new role as an Enterprise Solutions Engineer position at GitHub. I am now and for the rest of my life, going to be a Hubber.

What this means for me is I am going to reinvent myself once again. I am going to become a developer. I can remember clearly how difficult the first wrestling practices were, and then after a couple weeks my cardio had improved and I stopped gassing every match (Football is entirely anaerobic and Wrestling is entirely aerobic, and it can take all season to develop the conditioning to wrestle a large tournament). I can remember clearly thinking I am doing it. I am a wrestler!!!!

I expect to have the exact same experience at GitHub. I expect to wake up one day and say I am a developer. I can't wait and will be using this infraswarm.io blog to track the ups and downs. Get in touch if you might like to learn Node.JS with me….I am particularly excited to dig into NPM and understand EVERYTHING about it.

Be good and remember, practice, practice, practice….

-Thomas A. McGonagle Hubber

 
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