With a two minutes and change left in the Bills/Eagles this past Sunday, Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, NY, was jumping with the type of intensity rarely found anywhere outside of ball fields. The 73,000-plus fans (70,000 of whom enjoyed adult beverages with breakfast) were screaming their lungs out for the Bills defense. It was 16-13, Philadelphia with the lead and the football. The Bills desperately needed to stop the Eagles and just about everyone within the greater Niagara Falls area vocalized their desires. One play later -- a 62-yard Brian Westbrook touchdown run that secured the game for the Eagles -- the energy vanished from the stadium, except for one raucous section of the end zone peppered with Birds fans.
And I was one of them.
It was a heck of an afternoon: great stadium, great fans, warm-enough weather, and reasonably-priced Labatt Blues. It was a tough, competitive game in a jacked-up stadium, and as I may have mentioned, the Eagles won and righted the ship after an 0-2 start.
I have been a football fan forever, but this season has an extra kick to it after I hung out at training camps and talked to coaches for the coaching story in the October 2003 issue of Inc. We decided to talk management styles with some of the NFL's best coaches because so many entrepreneurs use football metaphors, clichés and jargon as part of their daily lexicon. And there isn't a more oft-quoted leader in the business community than Vince: "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm" Lombardi. Living vicariously through grown sweaty men every Sunday seems silly on its face value, but count me as one boldly proclaiming that "we needed this game" -- we meaning Donovan McNabb, Troy Vincent, Andy Reid and Patrick Sauer naturally.
I was struck by a couple of things in Buffalo, first and foremost -- the buffalo wingheads will never have the same charm and color as the original Green Bay Packer cheesehead hats, even though a plate of the hot wings at the Anchor Bar offers a much more rewarding meal than a brick of Wisconsin cheddar. (Heed this warning -- skip the suicide, my mouth is still vaguely numb). Second, it was the first game I've attended since writing the story, and it was easy to see why so many business owners have a fantasy life as an NFL coach (often manifested in life as an NFL coach in fantasy football). What other arena offers the devotion and the dedication as a packed house on gameday? Later , we can get into whether or not NFL coaches can teach CEO's a thing or two -- or vice versa -- but from a sheer intensity standpoint, it's obvious. Players, coaches, fans of all stripes, cheerleaders, Rock You Like A Hurricane by the Scorpions, F-14 flyovers and a high-school marching band all add up to an office loaded with passion, the kind of office where everyone show sup for work at 8 a.m. Sunday morning -- except for the overachievers in the RVs. They set up camp in the Ralph Wilson parking lot Friday night.
So I'll be here all week talking football, business, and the business of football and maybe we can even spitball Super Bowl scenarios. Can anyone beat Tampa Bay? Which reminds me, last Friday, Jon Gruden was on NPR here in New York City discussing his new book Do You Love Football?!: Winning with Heart, Passion and Not Much Sleep. It's a good interview on some of the same topics in the article. The NFL on NPR, we really are a football nation, aren't we?
Lastly, the racially-charged topic in this article is too big for this blog, but it's been aggravating me all morning, so I couldn't let it slide completely. I'd like to give Donovan McNabb (or Brian Dawkins if McNabb continues on the high road) two minutes alone in the parking lot with Rush Limbaugh -- just to see what kind of interesting shapes they can arrange his fat dittohead, but that's just me...