When losing is winning

U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus (far right), ...

U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus (far right), commander, U.S. Central Command, poses for a photo with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (center) and former players Lynn Swann, Roger Craig, and John Elway (second from right), during Super Bowl XLIII, Feb. 1, 2009, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The snow we received that prompted yet another snow day for many people here in Louisville made me think of how Denver residents would look at how pathetic an action that is. It takes a lot of snow and cold to force closures in Denver in both private and public sectors, as knowing how to safely move about in up to a foot of snow is pretty common, if not expected, by folks who live there.

I felt bad about the beat down the Denver Broncos suffered last night at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. A lot of casual observers put most of the onus on Peyton Manning which is unfair, but that’s what comes with the turf for the glamour position in the NFL—quarterback. It did hearken back to the destruction the Washington Redskins, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers heaped upon the John Elway-led Broncos in their Super Bowl teams of that era. Yes, it has been 15 years since Elway rode off into the sunset after back-to-back Super Bowl championships against the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons respectively, but Denver was a long-suffering franchise up until that point, playing runner-up in four Super Bowl losses dating back to the Craig Morton era.

Elway had a look on his face when the cameras found him up in the luxury suites at MetLife Stadium yesterday. It was the look of disappointment for sure, but it was also an outward expression of the sour taste in one’s mouth that comes from working so hard towards a goal only to fall short when it is show time.

The NFL Today's Shannon Sharpe during the Supe...

The NFL Today’s Shannon Sharpe during the Super Bowl XLI pre-game show in Miami, Fla. VIRIN: 070204-F-7251M-906 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Broncos loss was at the hands of a superior, younger team. The NFL is a young man’s game most of the time, but teams with older players can do alright provided the overall team is pretty good—as Elway’s last two veteran teams were. Manning’s Broncos were exposed last night by a Seattle defense that pressured him relentlessly. He simply was not permitted to do the things he had done all year up until that point.

Not only is football a young man’s game, but it is a team game. You can have a classically great pocket QB like Manning in charge, but if the offensive line doesn’t protect him, he won’t get it done. You can have a 1,000 yard running back trying to chunk out yardage but he won’t get it done unless the line opens up holes with enough room for him to run through. And if the defense doesn’t stop the opposing team’s offense, then your hall of fame quarterback and 1,000 yard rusher are rendered that much more impotent.

Elway’s physical skills were not nearly a match for the overall superior Redskins, Giants and 49ers teams he went up against back in the day at the big dance. Denver fans were hopeful that John could work some magic and bring a championship home to the Mile High City. But it was not to be. The entire city of Denver suffered increasingly worse Monday hangovers with each subsequent Super Bowl Sunday loss.

At the end of the day good teams beat less superior ones. That’s why the teams that are the decision-makers at municipalities like Louisville understand that although some people might be able to function safely during extreme weather, the right thing to do is to just keep kids and many workers home and out of harm’s way.

I’ve befriended people from Michigan who chuckle at how the slightest (in their eyes) bit of wintry weather forces gridlock and shut down here at the home of the Kentucky Derby. For a time I did too. But while the kids at the end of the school year will need to make up the days off they’ve taken, they are at least safe to do so. Minnesotans are similar in mindset when it comes to how the rest of the country reacts to extreme winter weather. Extreme is relative, though, especially when it comes to weather and where you live. No matter how much fun you get made of, if you take the criticism in stride and know you did the right thing by staying home and safe, no one will remember the laughter of those who poked fun at you for doing so.

Peyton Manning, like Elway in his three Super Bowl blowout losses, among others taught us the lessons of staying humble and accepting defeat graciously. In their Super Bowl defeats they understood they had not played their best games. They knew, though, even if they had, it still would have taken a similar effort from the entire team in order for them to have been victorious. This fact did not preclude both men accepting a good deal of the responsibility for the games’ outcomes. They did not belittle their teammates in defeat. This acceptance reminds us there’re still professional displays of leadership in sports we can emulate in our personal and professional lives.

The Defeat of the Cimbri

The Defeat of the Cimbri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elway retired as a back to back repeat Super Bowl champion. Manning may not get the chance to do so. If Manning never takes another snap, he has taught us the valuable lessons of graciousness and humility. We all suffer disappointments during our lives. Our teams that are our families and co-workers don’t always play their best games, so to speak, during crunch time. Under the glare of the international stage, Manning remains a champion by virtue of how he conducts himself.

The better team usually wins. The better people, even in the midst of crushing defeats, do too.


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