Last night the New England Patriots lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. I’m a New England fan, but I’m not upset.
Well, most of my life a large portion of my identity was wrapped up in my success in highly competitive athletics. For better or worse, so was much of my happiness. It’s easy to see why.
Winning is fun.
This definitely applied to my athletic career, but somehow it was also inextricably linked to the success of the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox. I was never depressed after a loss or anything, and I never took things as hard as these guys, but a loss always put a damper on my mood for a bit.
The thing that always snapped me out of any funk was remembering the age old “it’s just a game.” There are far more important things than some competition that people are getting paid to play. As I told my saddened Patriots fan friend last night, “There are billions of people in the world who don’t give a F^$# about this game.”
So. The Pats lost. It’s a bummer. Whatever. My well being isn’t tied up in the happiness of Tom Brady and more importantly, it’s not worth getting upset over things I can’t control. I wasn’t on the field. I didn’t lose. Moving on.
But this brings me to why the Patriots, however, should be really, really, really, ridiculously upset. (“DUH Reece” Yeah yeah it’s an obvious statement, but bear with me).
It sucks to say this, but the Patriots have gone from being an underdog, to a perennial power. Three-Superbowls-in-10-years-cocky, and it shows. In startup terminology, they’ve gone from bootstrapped hustlers to bubble-funded babies. They’ve lost the hunger, the ire, the “YOU THINK YOUAH BETTAH THAN ME?!” hustle that got them where they are.
Instead, they hold this sort of “It’s ok. We’ve got Coach Belichik and Tom Brady and we’ll be fine…” Thus, when the Patriots finally got ahold of the ball in the 4th quarter… it was way too late.
But so what… “it’s just a game,” right?
Thing is… “It’s just a game” doesn’t sit right when you didn’t leave everything on the field. The Patriots could’ve played with tons of heart and still lost, just like there are startups out there that hustle like hell and still fail… but those startups tried. They worked their asses off and went for it. They walk away with scars, but hold their heads high.
The Patriots can’t do that. They didn’t work hard. They treated it like it was just another game on the road to yet another Superbowl and now they’re wishing they could take every down again, and again.
The takeaway - for startups and athletes alike - summed up in two classic coaching cliches: “Play every play like it’s your last and leave everything on the field.” You may still lose, but at least you made it a game.
As for me, I’ve got my own game to play.