"Pride comes before a fall."
That phrase springs to mind upon first hearing the word.
But does it always? Could it potentially be a powerful tool to utilize on the way to winning?
Pride is not necessarily haughty arrogance. It's a personal choice to use the attitude as either a motivator or a stumbling block.
The stereotype about NFL wide receivers is well-known: Cocky. Excessive self-esteem. More concerned about individual stats than team accomplishments. "Throw me the ball."
But when it comes to Derrick Mason, the Ravens' leading receiver in yardage this season, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Pro Bowler is a proud NFL receiver. But Mason deviates from the mainstream. He owns Raven pride. He plays to achieve ultimate fulfillment in the success of his team.
"Pride, as I see it, is not being willing to settle for less," explains Mason. "Pride is a willingness to fight for something you believe in at all costs and not back down. Obviously, it can also be taken in the wrong way, and it can be a bad thing, but I think in this context, pride is a willingness to fight for something that you truly believe in, and that's this team. You're willing to fight for this team."
There it is – fight for the team. One word can change the entire makeup of another word's connotation.
Baltimore's head coach John Harbaugh agrees with Mason's assessment. One of the coach's most emphasized messages hangs on the wall in the players' area of their training facility. It is simple, but powerful: "Team, team, team," is written in words of increasing size to stress its importance.
"There are different types of pride," Harbaugh affirms. "I think the one that Derrick's talking about, and we're talking about, is pride in one another, basically a servant-type mentality where you put the team before yourself, your teammate before yourself. You do everything you can to make the people around you as successful as they can be. I think that's the spirit that runs through our team."
The difference comes in focusing on what's best for the many rather than the individual. This notion is motivational, not detracting.
As a veteran on the team, the younger players look to pattern Mason's attitude and actions. His influence has rubbed off, as not one of the Ravens' receivers fits the selfish stereotype.
"I see myself as a leader in that area," he admits. "Obviously, we have many of them. I try to help instill that pride that when you step out on the field, you're going to play, and you're going to give it your all. You're not going to settle for less, especially when it comes to your teammates.
"You're not going to go out there and give them a half-hearted job, because you don't want them to give you that. That's where that pride kicks in. I'm going out here, and whatever I need to do for the team, I'm going to do it, because I know these guys are looking at me and counting on me to really give it my all, really show up each and every game."
Mason guides by example. He puts in additional work after practice catching footballs, which demonstrates his dedication to striving for perfection. His commitment to share that routine and knowledge demonstrates his dedication to the entire team's success and not just his own.
"The example would be the way he works with the young guys," Harbaugh answered when asked how Mason is an example of pride. "I've never seen anybody catch balls on the JUGS machine like Derrick. He's got a whole routine, and he's taught the young receivers to do it. He's also teaching the cornerbacks, taking them through it. Anybody that will do it with him, he'll take them through it.
"He's very free with his wisdom and his knowledge of playing wide receiver with those guys. You don't always see that, because guys don't always think the way Derrick does about it."
Respectable pride is not arrogant. It is more concerned with others than self, and it is not free. It's a prize earned through sweat and perseverance.
"I think the true motivation is wanting to succeed at what you do," Mason muses. "It's wanting to not let the people around you down. You use the God-given abilities that you have to glorify him, and you go out there to play and have fun, but with a purpose: To give it all that you have, regardless of anything."
He didn't end a short-lived retirement this past summer to simply make more money. He didn't make game-changing catches last season with a dislocated shoulder to pad his own stats. He doesn't work to be one of the NFL's best route runners to garner media recognition. He doesn't go out into his community to sing karaoke at assisted living centers to enjoy the sound of his own voice.
Everything he does, it is for the Ravens. It is because he believes in his coaches, his teammates and his fans.
"You take pride in what you're doing when you're walking out there," Mason concludes about the gratification of being a Raven. "You take pride in putting on that Raven uniform, going out there, being amongst your comrades and enjoying a moment in time that comes and goes very quickly. You cherish them, you honor it, and you take pride in doing that."
And because of that, the City of Baltimore can take pride in the Ravens and Mason.