SIMON CO WEL L … JUDGE OF TELEVISION ‘ S POP IDOL, AMERICAN IDOL, AND THE X FACTOR … A UTHOR OF I DON’T MEAN TO BE RUDE, BUT . . . … EXECUTIVE PR ODUCER, SO YOU THINK YOU’VE GOT TALENT If it’s a clich to say athletics build character as well as muscle, then I subscribe to the clich . GERALD R. FORD, former U.S. President 76 IT’ S H O W Y O U P L A Y THE G AME What I liked about sports was the freedom I got as a kidI was not monitored when I played sports. We were able to get away with a lot. Unlike today here in America, when we played parents did not attend races or matches, and local reporters were not there. We were just able to compete, work out our differences, and leave. Recently, over in the UK, some idiot from the Labour government said we should not let our kids compete in sports. It’s absurd. If you stop kids from competing in sports, they will not compete in life, and life is a competition. For me, playing sports meant soccer and running track.

I was quite a fast runner. I ran the 100, 200, 400 and 800. I wasn’t a bad soccer player. I played inside right, because I wanted to be [1960s and 1970s UK soccer legend] George Best. What I didn’t like about sports taught me a lot about what I wanted to do the rest of my life, and that’s to be the best. I played hard, worked hard, and was not, shall we say, near the best. That bothered me. Okay, it didn’t just bother me, I hated it. I hated playing hard and not winning, not dominating, and in some cases not even being good. It was at that point that I made the decision, the declaration really, that if I can’t be the best, I just wouldn’t do it. I concluded that it’s better to be the best at one or two things than average at loads of things. I guess you could call this Simon’s anti-Nike moment. After much initial success racing on raw natural ability, I got my comeuppance. I lined up to run 400 meters for the first time, thinking, Well, I’ve never run it before, but I’ll figure it out. After all, I knew how to win the 800, so what was the difference? Well, I learned quick when the gun went off and this guy takes off out of the blocks in a full sprint and there I am in my Chariots of Fire pace.

All I could think of was, What the hell is he doing? I picked up the pace and finished seconda bad second, by the way, and I vowed never to run that race again. I just didn’t like going hard and losing big. And so, after an incredibly average season, I just decided to drop it. I wasn’t good, so I just wouldn’t do it. I felt like it wasn’t worth my time. SIMON COWELL 77 I sense that Simon hated not being great and that he was embarrassed not to be. The final embarrassing moment that had me leave team sports forever was when my brother was subbed for me in a basketball game. Okay, we all have to come out sometime, but I never went back in simply because they thought my younger brother was the better option. I simply couldn’t live with that. He has never forgotten about it and he reminds me about it all the time. I think all of this just fueled my hunger to find my purpose, my passion. Okay, now I’m convinced. Simon Cowell hates being embarrassed more than he hates losing. FINAL TAKE: SO, SIMON, IN CONCLUSION, YOUR KIDS WON’T PLAY SPORTS? Wrong! They absolutely will.

The idea that this generation sits in front of a computer, with their gray complexion, silently working their console instead of interacting, playing, and competing, is something I just would not permit. My message is simple: Playwin or losebut play. Know your limitations, and in this way, you’ll learn about yourself. Most of all, sports teaches communication and teamwork. Find me a TV show without good teamwork and I will show you a bad show. MY WRAP Simon is both brutally honest and, at the same time, disarming with his candor. Many who take his verbal barbs would be heartened to hear that he can be just as cutting with himself. He knew he wasn’t a great athlete; nevertheless, he tried it, bailed out, and then tried something else. He was honest with himself and has no regrets. He grew to know what he was good at and is not shy about stating it. In a way, his sports frustration has led to his stunning show business success.

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