BY CLINTON PAWLICK
A few years ago, I attended a conference for information technology professionals, where John Madden was a guest speaker. I was surprised to see the former NFL coach and television commentator on the agenda. I had expected someone a bit more technical, which is to say, boring. These events can lack a little rhythm and flow, and, until I saw his name on the page, I had planned to skip the introductory session. I’m glad I didn’t miss the opportunity because Madden delivered some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
In discussing his success as a head coach in the National Football League, he shared with us the things he asked of his players.
Be on time.
Work like hell when I ask you to.
It was simple, genuine, and brilliant. Three sentences I’ll carry with me forever. To this day, I hear Coach Madden’s voice in my head when I am even a minute late to a meeting or when my thoughts stray from the topic at hand. I feel guilty, like I could do better. Like I’m letting the big guy down.
The thing is, simplicity is elegant. But it is also hard. We can overthink things, complicate the basics, and make a pig’s breakfast out of situations again and again. Only when we relax, think less and do more is simplicity attainable. And, oh, how wonderful it is.
Take the Seahawks’ defense. There was a lot of hype leading up to the game with the Philadelphia Eagles. The NFL’s best offense versus its best defense. Analysts wondered aloud how the the match-up would play out. When one radio show host asked Seahawks middle linebacker, Bobby Wagner, how he would respond to the flurry of plays in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, Wagner laughed. I’ll get more tackles, he said. And he did. Seven tackles in a game the Hawks’ defense dominated. They held Philly to a brotherly loveless 139 total yards, shutting down Mark Sanchez, LeSean McCoy, and the rest of Eagles’ offense. They played as a team, engaged in collective effort instead of individual pursuit.
This is the magic of a championship team, and the energy is palpable. Seattle is abuzz with adoration and support of a team that is clicking. For the third week in a row, the defense dominated the opponent. There are no gimmicks. Just persistent attention to the basics of the game. It’s a beautiful reality that fantasy football statistics would misrepresent. No one player takes the glory in a team effort. Tharold Simon had this week’s interception, but the entire Seahawks secondary played a great game. Kam Chancellor wasn’t credited with a solo tackle against the Eagles, but did you see the hit that rallied his teammates? There’s a momentum to this defense that demonstrates the power of a selfless simplicity.
As John Madden pointed out, the recipe to success has only a few ingredients, but it’s a dish we can truly savor.
Clinton Pawlick and his wife, Jen, live in North Seattle. They love the Seahawks, good friends, Washington reds, and their two cats, Malcolm and Ink Pot Pie.
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