So, I really didn’t want to write anything related to the recent accusations against The New England Patriots. NFL investigators found 11 of 12 footballs were under-inflated in a 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in he AFC Championship game. The story seemed to have run it’s course with a million sophomoric jokes and former quarterbacks admitting to doing the same thing.
The fact that the New England Patriots are headed to the final game for the sixth time in thirteen years (winning in 2002, 2004, & 2005) should be the story. Unfortunately for them, it isn’t.
But, this story, one of seeking advantages by breaking the rules, won’t go away. The accusations threaten to further tarnish the reputation of the coach, quarterback and the franchise. It’s unfortunate, but self-inflicted.
This Post is Not About Football
It occurred to me that the story is probably lasting longer than it should because it’s not really a story about football. It’s about integrity. It’s about business. It’s about life.
How you go about becoming a success in business has many parallels to this story. This may be a bit of a stretch but stick with me.
This New England team is kind of like that company who has talent, is based in a great city, but isn’t patient enough to succeed on their own merit. They have the skills, execution and delivery to win more often than not. Yet, there is a lingering doubt that they aren’t good enough. So they search for other advantages.
They are like the CEO who has a few ghosts in their past, but now are performing at a high level. But instead of building off of that hard work, they steal a few trade secrets from their competition when no one is looking so they can cash a bigger check. And the ghosts linger, longer.
The NFL is like an organization that is fully aware that their members are stealing, cheating, and representing them poorly – but they are bringing in the cash and paying their dues on time, so they prefer to stay out of it.
This Post Is Not About Athletes
I’ve got nothing against the Patriots or Tom Brady. This really could be about any team, or athlete. All of them are looking for advantages. Surely some of them are using far worse tactics than (allegedly) letting the air out of the ball. But the pattern developing should be a wake up call for the ownership.
Sure, those who call themselves “fans” will forgive major violations for a victory. They are willing to look the other way for a championship. But, how hollow is that feeling of success when you haven’t really earned it on the “up and up?”
This acceptance of an unfairly won victory is the part of the story that bothers me. But it doesn’t keep me awake at night.
This Post Reminds Me of Why I Like Mayberry
The episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Aunt Bea makes her annual batch of “Kerosene Cucumbers” comes to mind. You may remember it. As she prepared her pickles for the fair, she brought a batch to the court house for Andy and Barney to sample. The fellas, not wanting to hurt her feelings, told her they were great. As soon as she left the room, they spat them out into the garbage can.
But it didn’t stop there. She thought they liked them so much that she kept bringing them batch after batch. Soon, the fellas created a scheme. They bought pickles from the store and put them in Aunt Bea’s jars. Now they could chow down and not have to spit them out.
Problem is, Aunt Bea had an “overinflated” impression of her pickles. She tasted them and decided to enter them in the fair. She won. Now we have a controversy.
Andy & Barney eventually came clean and admitted to replacing the pickles. All was forgiven and a lesson was learned.
This Post Is About Not Compromising
Instead of creating controversy by searching for easy answers, we owe it to those we work with and serve to go about things the right way. Sure, some days we will come up short, but it shouldn’t be for lack of effort. Choose not the shortcuts in an effort to get better at all costs. Instead, opt for what you can do to simply become better.
So my challenge to all athletes, performers, pastors, teachers, leaders of all kinds – and myself, is as follows:
Pursue excellence through execution and action. Not by deception (or deflation).
Understand that the fruits of success come from great patience, practice and development.
Realize that a victory won with deceptive practices is far less great than a loss earned with effort and integrity.
Choose not to be distracted solely by the trophy, the money or the accolades. Instead, become focused on creating through diligence, passion and dedication. Success will follow.
Don’t be greedy with your talent. Share it with others so that they, too, can become greater.
Use other’s success as a template, but not as a script. Inject your personality and beliefs into everything you do.
When offered a chance to advance using questionable tactics, challenge the person offering to become greater in their expectations of you.
And above all, put in the work – even when no one is looking.
Does that get you pumped up? I hope so. You can do great things the right way. You can become more than you are by doing more than you have. And when you reach your goal, you’ll be glad you didn’t take any shortcuts.
Life’s a journey, enjoy the comedy.