In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning won hockey’s Stanley Cup.

During the season, Lightning coach John Tortorella had a sign made and hung in the locker room that read simply, “Safe is Death.”

The slogan summed up Torts’ philosophy. Don’t ever sit back and protect a lead. Always play aggressively. Always take the game to the opponent, pressing for offensive momentum. In a nutshell, trying to play it safe and protect a lead would inevitably lead to a loss. The idea shares philosophical turf with the football mantra, “The prevent defense merely prevents you from winning.”

Tortorella took the helm at Tampa Bay during an era when defense ruled supreme. Most NHL teams played with a defense first mentality, employing the dreaded neutral zone trap. The idea was to smother the opponent, and then capitalize on a mistake or two to score goals. If played right, one or two biscuits in the basket were enough to earn a victory. The New Jersey Devils perfected the strategy, riding its trap to a pair of Stanley Cup championships. It was effective hockey, but dreadfully boring.

Torts decided to rewrite the script. He built the Lightning to score goals. Defensemen were encouraged to jump into the offensive zone. Forwards were encouraged to shoot the puck and crash the net. And he wanted the Bolts constantly on the forecheck, cycling the puck and creating offensive chances. The Tampa Bay skipper knew the team would give up some odd-man rushes and goals from time to time, but he believed that by maintaining offensive momentum, his team would control the game, outscore its opponents and win more games than it lost. The other guys simply would not be able to stem the onslaught.

It worked.

In fact, it worked so well that the Lightning struggled to win games when they deviated from the philosophy. Playing safe really did prove deadly.

I think Torts’ philosophy carries over into life in general. When you sit back and live defensively, you miss out on a lot of life. Granted, it’s easier. Defense doesn’t require much risk. You just sit back and let life come to you. A “Safe is Death” mentality is for risk-takers. How’s the old saying go? “Nothing ventured, nothing gained?”

That’s why I don’t have a lot of patience for people who tell me that nullification is too risky. I hear a lot of that. And these folks can quickly list a litany of fears.

“If we defy the feds, they might cut off our funding.”

“If the sheriff arrests a TSA agent for groping a little girl, it might create a confrontation with the federal government, or they might shut down our airports.”

“If we try to nullify the health care act, the IRS might come along and collect the penalties anyway.”

Might. Might. Might.

You know what?

They might.

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And in some cases our efforts might fail. In fact, they probably will at times. Nobody ever promised this would prove easy. The Lightning didn’t win every game in the 2003-2004 season. In fact, they lost 22 in the regular season, and seven during their playoff run.

In reality, we don’t know what will happen if we try to follow the path of nullification to liberty. But we do know what will happen if we continue slinking along in the scared, defensive posture we’ve adopted.

The federal government will continue to grow. It will continue to ignore all constitutional restraint. It will continue to violate basic civil liberties. It will continue to spend our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren (and on and on) into debt. It will continue to wage unconstitutional wars.

It will continue to tell you what plant you can grow in your back yard, what kind of light bulb you can screw into your fixtures and how much water you can have in your toilet. It will continue to micromanage your life. And it will continue to operate as if we the people don’t even exist.

Safe is death.

Mike Maharrey

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