If the name “Chuck Muncie” means anything to you at all, it probably indicates one of two things:
- You’re old.
- You’re a passionate fan of the NFL and it’s history of characters.
I have the advantage of being both. But that still isn’t the reason “Chuck” has a significant role in my professional history. Nope, for me, that name still resonates loudly for another reason.
My first gig out of school was working for Gallo Wines. Basically an extended fraternity for guys like me, coming out of college with little idea regarding what to do professionally. So, we “sold” wine – basically convincing grocery stores to display our product prominently on end-caps. It was not, as they say, my life’s ambition, and was at times menial work. Stacking boxes, cutting boxes (before box-cutters became a lethal weapon), dusting wine bottles, and anything else we could do to curry favor from store management.
Let’s just say that my effort level was less than ideal. But I managed to get by…for a while. I had a manager, we’ll call him “Joe” (mainly because his name is Joe), and he wasn’t having it. Joe and I were completing a sales call and loading back up into the company wagon when he decided the time was right to offer some curbside feedback. I’ll never forget it.
“Whit, you know who you remind me of? Chuck Muncie. You know Chuck Muncie?” Yep, and I knew this wasn’t going to be a Hallmark card.
“Yeah, Chuck was an all-world talent. The guy was amazing. Could have been an all-time great, but he half-assed it, got into some bad habits, flamed out way before his time.” Chuck’s “bad habits” included a nasty cocaine addiction, so we did not share that particular affliction, but point taken.
“You can’t coach that kind of player, unless – that player makes a conscious decision to take accountability and fix it.”
So I was Chuck-freaking-MUNCIE???? I was embarrassed…and completely humbled. I knew Joe as a great guy, a straight-shooter, and a fair manager. His opinion of me was obviously much different, and that hurt. But it was brilliant feedback – like I said, I never forgot it.
Whenever I’m in the position of giving feedback now, I still think back to my experience that day in the Safeway parking lot, and it sets the bar for what is to come – it takes courage to give honest feedback. Joe decided to treat me like an adult and give it to me straight. No soft-sell, no manager-speak, no email after the fact; this was face-to-face, relevant (Joe and I shared a passion for football), timely, honest, and meaningful.
Prologue: Me and Chuck had a few parallels in our career paths. There were some spikes of brilliant performance followed by returns to past mediocrity. It wasn’t until I found my “place” in HR that I began to flourish. As for Chuck, he had a rough go of it – at one point landing in Federal prison for selling drugs.
There is a happy ending, however…while in prison, Chuck found his calling, as he used his life experience as a message to kids who may consider the same path; in 1997, the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation was founded. He passed away in 2013, but impacted a generation of kids in a way he could not do on the gridiron.
So, all in all, being Chuck Muncie wasn’t such a bad thing after all.