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?