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The Journey vs. The Destination

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Today's post is going to be a little different. When I started this blog I thought I'd right about money 80% of the time, technology 15%, and sports 5%. No one likes to be one-dimensional and it can get boring quickly. This is going to be one of those articles that sports-related, but hopefully you'll be able to extrapolate it to life, the universe, and everything.

Last night, my favorite team, the New England Patriots engaged in what many considered one of the best football games of the year. The only thing marring it was the referees' call and non-call that generated huge amounts of controversy. The referee saw the Carolina player interfering with the Patriots' player and threw a flag on the last play. This would give the Patriots one more chance from the 1 yard line to try to win it. However, after talking with the other referees it was judged that the Patriots player couldn't have caught the ball and thus it wasn't a penalty. The referees picked up the flag and explained that there was no penalty and ran off the field.

(I'm biased, but it seems every ex-referee who analyzes current referee calls determined that it was a textbook example of pass interference. After reading the rules myself, it says "the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved players." The fact that analysts are debating it today leads me to believe that it was anything but "clearly." For example, if it's possible that the Patriots' player could have put his foot and knocked the ball into his hands for a legal catch, it should be deemed "catchable.")

The game was a great journey with a bad destination. It got me thinking today, why not just enjoy that journey? Truth be told, as a Patriots fan over the last 9 years, it's a concept that I've embraced. Many Patriots fans judge success by the number of championships won. No one is going to get upset with winning a championship, but I'm starting to see things in a different way. It's become very clear to me that many, many football games end in a way that one inch in one play could completely change the outcome. Last night's game was an example where any number of plays could have been the difference in the game. If you get that bad bounce in the Super Bowl and don't win the championship, does that mean the team was any less great? Maybe one team was better on that day. Maybe they were the beneficiary of that inch. I don't think that should be the difference between immortality and irrelevance. Thus I choose to measure success by the journey... am I happy with that particular Sunday's destination (i.e. a win) more often than not? With the Patriots I am, regardless of whether the players get to wear rings at the end of the season.

The game last night has been analyzed about a thousand different ways. One thing that I often see coming is the theory that the controversial play didn't cost the Patriots, they had lost the game on their own accord through a series of mistakes earlier in the game (a fumble, letting cray legs Cam Newton run around on them on 3rd down, etc.). The problem with this reasoning is that it works for both teams. Imagine if the Patriots player clearly committed offensive pass interference and caught the winning touchdown on that controversial play. The same analysts would be saying that the play didn't lose the Panthers the game, but it was the fact that they allowed the Patriots to move the ball nearly 400 yards and get 28 first downs. Or perhaps they'd say that the Panthers deserved to lose because Cam Newton has to do better than pass for around 200 yards at home against a team missing 6 defensive starters.

In effect the analysts saying that the Patriots lost the game before the last play lose sight of the fact that the last play completely dictates the story they tell. A few weeks earlier the Patriots won in almost an identical comeback in the last minute and every media outlet was shout how great Tom Brady is from the rooftops. There was no story about how the Patriots had lost the game in the previous plays, because they didn't lose the game.

It's strange how sometimes journalists rewrite the journey to fit the destination... especially when that destination could have easily been flipped in the entirely opposite direction. I want to give them a Mike Ditka "Stop it!" I wish they'd just stick to the story that it was a very evenly matched pair of teams on this night. One had to win and one had to lose. Hundreds of different things along the way could have won or lost the game for each team. However, at the end of the game it came down to the referees' judgment of what a player was capable of doing if he wasn't being interfered with... and their inability to realize that it would be textbook holding at a minimum, which doesn't rely on the ball being catchable.

To tie this back around to money, let's look at lottery winners. These people essentially skip to the financial destination without the journey. For most of them, such a dramatic move makes their lives a mess and studies show that they aren't any happier than the rest of us.

It makes me think that without the journey the destination is often meaningless. So put me down as being a "journey" kind of guy (and definitely not the band). However, if you are a "destination" person, you could have skipped all the paragraphs about sports in the middle and jumped here from the first paragraph. If you did, then you already know the secret is 42, right?

Posted on November 19, 2013.

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4 Responses to “The Journey vs. The Destination”

  1. simon says:

    Maybe consider your audience ie those reading your article here because I assume a bunch of us are from outside of the USA?

    It would be good to first explain who the heck the New England Patriots are, and what you mean by football? What game are your referring to here? I was confused at first e.g. football is what we call soccer in England and the New England Patriots mean nothing to me whatsoever.

    If you don’t explain things e.g. The New England Patriots are an American gridiron football team based in ….? – a reader gets the impression you are not writing for people outside of the USA – which is common and or you are not being considerate and don’t give a crap!

    I find this often with American writers ie assuming the whole world revolves around the little USA of only 300 million people out of 7 billion people in the world.

    They write articles without much consideration for their audience and it comes across as the stereo typical arrogant American who thinks they rule the world and we should all confirm to your culture and values.

    Just a thought.

    • Lazy Man says:


      This is a great thought. When I previously looked at my audience, it was around 95% USA, but now I see it is closer to 81%.

      At some point, I have to make a judgment call as to what the majority of my audience has as a base knowledge. When I’m reading a site from the UK and they write about football, I know they are writing about the sport with the round ball and big goals. Is it fair for those in England to have the same knowledge of the US? I think so. If I were a writer from England and I was referring to a Manchester United football match, it might come across as odd to explain MU as an “English football team based in…” If you are an American, you would probably say, “Get on with the story, we don’t need you clarify ‘American gridiron football'”

      And God help me if I wrote a sentence like “The New England Patriots are an American gridiron football team based in New England.” to continue your example. As it was, I tried to do my best to open it up to the whole audience by not introducing the players involved. They are stars and household names in their teams’ respective regions, but I thought it was best not to confuse people with those details as it wasn’t entirely relevant to the point.

      I read a blog that is very specific in nature to Boston an area where I’ve spent most of my life. About 80% of the articles are of a national focus, but it’s quite common for him to use local vernacular like “hardo” to describe someone who is overly self-confident to an extreme degree. If someone was from a different region in the United States they would have no clue what he was talking about. Yet, it is a fantastic blog with millions of readers. The author of that blog wouldn’t say that he is trying to write for 7 billion people, he’d rather strongly connect with a small subset of them. I think there’s a lot to be said for that. It is his use of the local vernacular that people connect with and watering it down for an audience of 7 billion would effectively alienate his loyal local followers.

      In addition, I wouldn’t know where to begin trying to boil down personal finance to be applicable to every person in every country. It seems impossible even if I had full knowledge of all of countries and all their cultures. I couldn’t write about Santander Bank’s deal for example.

      For what it’s worth, I try to bring a little international flavor when I have knowledge of it. For example, after talking to blogger from the UK a couple of months ago, I started to use the expression stuff yourself, which I hoped Americans would find funny as I did. I love the expression.

      I have a final thought about American writers assuming the world revolves around the little USA. I think in large part we’ve been taught that from the ground up. Our investing magazines for years suggested that foreign allocation should only be 10-15% of a portfolio. When I suggested it should be more than 50%, people laughed at me.

      I wouldn’t say that the rest of the world should confirm to our cultures and values, but simply to understand that different countries have different cultures. Writers from each country are, by nature, going to be reflect that culture.

      I’m amazed that people would read my writing in general, but I’m even more amazed that so many people outside the US would read it, and care enough to send me a comment about it.

  2. Kevin says:

    I agree with the problem of thinking “they had lost the game on their own accord through a series of mistakes earlier” since it applies to both teams

    I like to think of it as, if you don’t play well enough to win decisively (by more than one score) you can’t complain when a controversial call.. or a lucky play like a hail mary wins it for the other team.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Kevin, the problem that I have with that is the talent level is so high, many of the games are close. This past week 7 of the games were within one score. Also because of the limited number of games the difference between going to the playoffs and staying home can be one win. These teams put in a lot of hard work on both sides of the contest, so naturally the tendency is going to be close games.

      I don’t really know any other way of doing it except with Ray Lewis’ suggestion of making these subjective calls reviewable. That opens up a huge can of worms, potentially creating more problems than it solves. Maybe if there was something like officials at NFL headquarters who are watching the game in real-time and have the ability to shut down the scoreboard and putting an alert the call is under headquarter review. At least in this instance, if it was more than just 3 officials getting together (2 who overruled the close one from far away), I think they’d have concluded that it wasn’t clearly uncatchable.

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