Don’t Believe the Hype

I love football. Really love football, so this week is particularly exciting. Super Sunday is days away, bigstock-Pro-American-Football-on-the-F-26163068the game will be played where my beloved NY Giants play, and my favorite QB – PEYTON!!! – is gunning for his second ring. I am in a state of glee.

It’s perfect: the big game, played in my home team stadium, with my favorite QB.

Something about the run-up to Sunday, though, is not right.

Over the past decade, the NFL has been systematically refashioning a championship game into an event on par with the Olympics or a presidential inauguration. This year’s version is taking advantage of NY’s patina as a Major Global City to shut down Broadway for 13 blocks to create Super Bowl Boulevard, launch a party cruise in NY Harbor, hold a huge media event at the Prudential Center in Newark and support live concerts on Ellis Island. The security and logistics apparatus behind such grandeur is, understandably, immense. Landing in the middle of an unusually cold and snowy winter will make this event memorable.

I have to admit to myself that all the pre-game hoopla is about strengthening the NFL brand, driving revenue and increasing ratings. Naively I had thought the Super Bowl was about a game.

Yes, a game. What is essentially a contest of skill and force between two conference leaders has been obfuscated by excessive hype, crazy expectations and peripheral noise.

On Super Bowl Sunday, the heart of the endeavor will be two teams showing up for a mere 60 minutes of play where the goal is to crown the team that outplays, and outscores, the other. That’s it. For the players, pre-game is not a boat ride on the Hudson. Pre-game is preparation: physical and mental readiness, knowledge of the competitor, the potential impact of weather conditions and the key schemes to be executed. All that exists during the time of play is play itself.

This obfuscation, this volcano of distraction, is quite familiar to anyone who works to meet a goal. How many times has what you set out to do become weighed down by additional expectations, noise from others and hidden agendas that somehow get thrown at you? Or perhaps you find yourself frozen by your own historic biases, faulty perceptions or unrealistic hopes?

And so it is for any professional working toward a goal.

In fact, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll understands the fundamental need to keep one’s mind clear and focused so well, that he has brought practices such as meditation and yoga to his team.

What Coach Carroll is advocating is the art of the essential.

And sometimes it’s hard to get there. The hype, the distraction and the noise can be surreptitiously comforting. They prevent you from doing what might make you uneasy or challenged. They temporarily remove the sting of public loss because they guarantee that no one is really paying attention. Yet like turning a game into a Game, the hype confuses the essential. And what is essential is meeting your goal.

Now, I could list a number of techniques to remain focused on one’s goal. And that might be useful. But I believe that most of us have seen these kinds of lists before and while helpful, they are also obvious: be clear about what you want to achieve, map out the steps to get there, set measurable milestones along the way. I have little doubt that anyone who is looking for tactical direction would not be able to find it.

The truth is, humanity’s struggle with distraction is eternal. The only thing that has changed is the nature of the distraction. If the problem of environmental noise were so modern, then Thoreau would have stayed in Concord.

Every professional should have his or her own pre-game ritual; a well-tested preparatory routine that sets the mind, factors in current and potential externalities, and creates space for achievement. And once that ritual is run, you simply go.

I remain enthusiastic about the Super Bowl, in spite of the craziness surrounding it. Wearing my Broncos jersey, with a beer in hand, I will partake of a fantastic contest of skill and force – in other words, I will watch these players focus on the essential.




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