Sports can provide the greatest metaphors for business. You can gain a lot of insight by connecting what happens in a game with how you should conduct yourself. The Super Bowl last week was a prime example. I’ve been thinking a lot about that game in hindsight.
I was really pulling for the underdog Giants, especially Eli Manning. It was pretty obvious New England was going to win the game. On paper, Tom Brady has it all. He’s this phenomenal 6’4” three-time Super Bowl champ, MVP quarterback. He’s a future hall of famer, he’s married to a supermodel – he’s the whole package. New England has the smartest coach. They have the better team.
Then there were the Giants, who had to win their last two games to even get into the playoffs and then had to play all the best teams to get to the Super Bowl. Eli Manning has always been the understated, less talented QB. He got booed early in his career and is the little brother of one of the greatest quarterbacks. He’s endured humiliating questions like, “When are you going to become a great athlete?”
YET at the end of the day, his leadership throughout the game and especially in the 4th quarter was the difference between the Giants winning the game and losing. He may not be as physically gifted as Brady, but he was calm, had a clear vision and knew exactly what to do. He was the better leader.
We see this all the time in sports. It’s not the individuals who win; it’s always the better team. It’s the guys who are willing to sacrifice; it’s the people who are willing to come together with one purpose. Individual talent is secondary to the team. It’s an interesting metaphor because I think business is exactly the same. If you can work together you always get better results than banking on the best individual talent.
Also, we always sharpen our tools in good competition. If you look at the path New England was on, they got a bye in the first round and then played Denver, who wasn’t a great team. Then they played the Ravens, who were a pretty good team, so they had one really good game in three prior to the Super Bowl. The Giants, on the other hand, had to play the Jets and Dallas just to get into the playoffs and then another three really hard games with the best teams in the NFC just to get to the Super Bowl. So their ability to raise their game because they were in a more competitive playoff situation made them better by the time they got to the Super Bowl. That goes to show that competition, whether in business or sports, brings out the best in a team.
If you were to wind the clock back to five or eights weeks ago and predict the Giants would be in the Super Bowl, nobody would have bet on that. The odds were hundreds to one. But you would have bet New England would make it to the Super Bowl. They were on the path. THEY WERE THE BEST TEAM. The competition enabled the Giants to rise to the occasion and beat all the best teams in the NFC and then go on to beat the favorite in the Super Bowl.
And so again, sports plays a role in how we can view success in business. Competition is good. We should understand who our competition is and try hard to beat the best. That is more important than just competing against people who aren’t the best. TEAM always prevails over individual talent!