My Gift To The NFL – And There’s No Need To Thank Me!

An open letter to Commissioner Goodell…

Dear Commissioner,

I’d like to to help you and the NFL out of a fix you’re in… Please consider this as our gift to you…

The gift is about a standard that the rest of the sporting world has set for winners and losers alike. It is about what you say—and what you don’t say—when presenting or receiving your most prestigious trophies and awards.

It is about a standard, incidentally, that applies equally to small children, to Fortune 500 companies and to the NFL—and to everyone in between.

It is about graciousness, respect, sportsmanship and humility…

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I really do want to be reasonable, Mr. Commissioner. For example, I want you to know that I applaud you for keeping an open mind in addressing the many difficult challenges you’ve faced this past year. From players assaulting their domestic partners to players deflating their game balls, I know you’ve had your hands full.

That said, it’s always important to keep an open mind and to keep one’s eyes on the bigger picture…

A problem for you to fix…

After watching your award ceremony at yesterday’s Super Bowl 50, I was reminded that there is a difference between having an open mind and having a hole in your head from which your brain might be leaking…

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I hope you won’t think me disrespectful in saying that the NFL might be suffering from a severe case of a leaking brain. This is why I thought we should do what we could to help.

As William Arthur Ward wrote, to receive honors with humility are the marks of maturity and graciousness… The NFL and Denver Broncos failed in this quite miserably…

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Could you imagine this?

Could you ever imagine, Mr. Commissioner, a Wimbledon champion or the winner of a Grand Slam golf tournament accepting a trophy without first congratulating his or her opponent for reaching the final and for playing so well?

Actually, I dot believe this has EVER happened…

Winners and administrators at these events, at the very beginning of their remarks, always recognize the runner-up and congratulate him/her for reaching the final and for delivering a fine performance. By doing so, they offer an example of graciousness, respect, sportsmanship and humility. They set a wonderful example for all viewers of the event.

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And consider this, Mr. Commissioner:

The 2014 FIFA World Cup final attracted a television audience of 3.2 billion viewers. The 2015 Rugby World Cup final attracted 120 million viewers. Super Bowl 50 attracted 112 million viewers.

In presenting the winning trophy to the FIFA World Cup and the Rugby World Cup winners, what did those 3.3 billion viewers see? They saw what we didn’t see yesterday. They saw FIFA and rugby officials and each winner effusively congratulating the losing finalist and praising their performance and spirit. This sportsmanship and graciousness is the norm, not the exception…

On the rugby front, for example, there are numerous examples of the sportsmanship of these teams as they formed tunnels to applaud and respect their opponents at the end of an important game…

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French rugby team applauding the Irish team after the game…

And have you noticed how, at the end of every NHL playoff series, the players and coaches line up on the ice and shake hands and congratulate one another?

Could you imagine the winner of a Stanley Cup not publicly congratulating their opponents for reaching the final and putting up such a great performance?

Nah, they ALWAYS do this. It is a sign of respect, graciousness, sportsmanship and humility.

Kings

So, Mr. Commissioner, it defies belief that the NFL, in presenting its trophy, didn’t follow the example set by the rest of the sporting world.

All I would ask is that you don’t allow it to happen again. I would ask you to make sure that, in the future, the NFL displays the same graciousness, respect, sportsmanship and humility that the rest of the sporting world displays when its awards its trophies…

I know you can do this…

Warm regards.

Michael

The background—and it’s gift…

So, gentle readers, here is the background to my letter:

Super Bowl 50 had just ended. My team, the underdog Denver Broncos, had surprised everyone by beating the Carolina Panthers—the team with the best record in the NFL. The Panthers were led by Cam Newton, the recipient of the prestigious MVP award—the award given to the NFL’s most valuable player.

As the award ceremony began, the dignitaries assembled for the presentation…

Ironically, one of the celebrities who delivered the Lombardi Trophy to the platform for the presentation was the iconic Joe Namath. The irony was that those who were about to speak at the presentation were quite unaware of what Joe had previously revealed about what football had taught him—

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The trophy presentation was about to begin. This was the program for the presentation:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would say a few words before presenting the Lombardi Trophy to Beth Bowlen, the daughter of the owner of the Broncos. She would then say a few words after which the President of the Broncos, the legendary John Elway, would make some comments. He would then be followed by the Broncos coach and then by Peyton Manning, their legendary quarterback and future Hall of Famer.

What I expected from each of the 5 speakers was probably what 3.4 billion viewers around the world witnessed as they viewed the presentation of the FIFA World Cup and Rugby World Cup trophies. What we all expected was a magnanimous display of graciousness, respect, sportsmanship and humility towards the vanquished Panthers, their ownership and loyal fans. I certainly expected each of the 5 speakers to congratulate the Panthers on their otherwise quite remarkable season and on their plucky display in making this such a difficult victory for the Broncos.

Imagine my surprise when not a SINGLE speaker even MENTIONED the Panthers—let alone acknowledged them for reaching the Super Bowl and having the best record in football.

How crass! How classless! What a terrible example for the millions of sports fans around the world who watched this self-absorbed and selfish display of ungraciousness and lack of humility that showed absolutely no respect for the Panthers…

What a terrible lesson, I thought, for the millions of young people watching the game. What a terrible example from Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, to every other Denver Bronco representative.

if it kills you

How this relates to our business and personal lives…

In the attached podcast with Steve Burrows CBE, we chat about how displaying graciousness, respect, sportsmanship and humility can all really help us in our business and personal lives to realize our dreams…

Enjoy!