Story Lines and the Super Bowl: Pittsburgh, Seattle, Baltimore, and San Francisco

 In Life Coaching

My father was born in Pittsburgh. He was a Steeler’s fan even before the euphoria of the 1970’s Steeler’s Nation. I was born in Pittsburgh and so, of course, I am a Steeler’s fan. Being a fan of a team goes just beyond a casual relationship with a team. At times, it feels like an extension of yourself. When I watch Steeler’s games, I remember the joy and excitement of my 8 year-old self listening to Myron Cope on the radio with the TV on mute. (Those from the ‘Burgh know what I’m talking about!) I miss those times. I miss the ‘yoy’ and ‘double yoy’ and even the vaunted ‘triple yoy’. To my surprise, writing this right now makes my eyes are tear up a bit. Just enough to know that fandom is real and meaningful.

I now live in Portland, Oregon, but being a fan of the Steelers is one my strongest links back to my family who all still live in Pittsburgh. The yearly visits back to Pittsburgh are good, but there’s nothing like the phone call after games to debrief and discuss how the team performed and why they won or lost.

Living in Portland, I find myself in the awkward position of also rooting a little for the Seahawks. I like Pete Carroll. I like what the Seattle Seahawks stand for. Plus, it’s the closest team to Portland and gives me the option to actually see a game live, even though the drive is about 2 hours. Oh sure, I can admit that in the 2005 Super Bowl, the refs got caught up like everyone else outside of Seattle in Jerome Bettis winning a Super Bowl. I have a lot of empathy for Seattle fans when the Steelers won, but I also think that it’s not an accident… The teams who produce the best story lines win.

Let’s look take a look back to see what I mean.  I’ll explain why I think that in the 2013 Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens are going to beat the San Francisco 49er’s, even though Baltimore is the underdog.

When the Steelers were winning their Super Bowls in 2005 and 2009 they still had the positive narrative. Cheated by the New England Patriots in Spygate in the early 2000’s, Pittsburgh was like the hard-working, family-owned, blue-collar, honest middle-class worker who kept on working until reaching the big prize and sending off their work-horse (Bettis) with a ring and big win to retirement.  Then Ben Roethlisburger, the Quarterback, trashed the Steeler’s narrative with his disgusting actions in bars in Atlanta, Georgia. Boo on Ben.

Now Ben is married and has his first child. I’m sure his perspective has changed, that he’s grown and learned, but I think as long as Ben is the Steeler’s QB, they won’t win another Super Bowl. Simply put: the Steelers lost the narrative.

Let’s take a look at Seattle. Their rookie Quarterback Russell Wilson is awesome. He represents a new era of Quarterbacks who can execute a read-option. His mantras ‘The Separation is in the Preparation’ and ‘Don’t be afraid to Excel’ are awesome. What’s also awesome is how he lives his values. He prepares like Dan Gabel. Even during the season, he visits a children’s hospital weekly. He gives intelligent and coherent answers to reporters that actually mean something beyond just football.

Seattle has an opportunity to create a compelling narrative of how preparation and consciously paying attention to how you give back pays off. In other words, it’s a Life Coach’s dream team.

Now it is time for a quick take on the current Super Bowl and Baltimore and San Francisco. What I love the most about writing this two weeks before the Superbowl is that we’ll have a chance to find out how strong the narrative theory is. I belief that Baltimore has the better narrative, and hence, is going to win. Ray Lewis is the current Jerome Bettis. Lewis announced his retirement at the beginning of the pre-season and since then Baltimore has been pretty much unstoppable. Heavy underdogs, to the tune of 8 to 10 points, they defeated the number three seed, Indianapolis, the number one seed, Denver, and the number two seed, Boston, all on the road. The Ravens’ road to the playoffs could not have been any tougher (except, of course, if they had played the Steelers).

San Francisco also has a narrative. It’s the gutsy choice of their head coach to switch to a QB who can use the read-option in plays. Are the 49er’s the new design of NFL teams? Is the NFC really that dominant over their brothers in the AFC?

Based on simple narratives, Baltimore wins. Hands-down. And the refs are going to be a part of this much to the chagrin of San Francisco. Consider it a repeat of 2005.

Narratives matter. They matter in our own lives. They matter in the stories that our culture shares. The beauty of Life Coaching is that it gives you the opportunity to take a step back and ask yourself:

What is my narrative?

What story do I tell myself about who I am and what I’m up to?

The best teams in football recognize the competitive advantage of consciously choosing their narrative. Bettis and Lewis are geniuses, both on and off the field.

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