Anecdote 4: Super Bowl XLIV - For when you are the underdog in something
Only one team had ever achieved a perfect season - 19 consecutive wins, from game 1 straight through to the Super Bowl - and that was the Miami Dolphins in 1972. But in the 2007 season the New England Patriots were all set to equal their achievement.
They sailed through the regular season without losing a game, beating the Giants in the final game 38-35. Five weeks later, the two teams meet again in the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. The Pats are on such a roll, they seem destined to win. The Giants lose 6 of their 16 regular season games, and are 12 point underdogs. Some members of the New England team are so confident they trademark '19-0', which will represent their record after they win the game.
On the day, an early Giants field goal lead is lost and by half time the score is 7-3 to New England. A Giants touchdown puts them back ahead with 11 minutes left, but New England come back with one of their own to make it 14-10, and as the last minute ticks away on the clock, it looks like the Patriots' date with destiny has arrived.
Until Giants wide receiver David Tyree catches a 33-yard Eli Manning pass, initially pinning it to his helmet with one hand, and takes the ball to the New England 24-yard line. There are 35 seconds left on the clock and every fan in the stadium has his heart in his mouth. And then ... unbelievably .... Manning finds receiver Plaxico Buress with a regal, floating 24-yard touchdown pass over the head of Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs. The Giants fans go beserk, the Pats fans are stunned into absolute silence.
And suddenly ..... New England's dream of achieving the second ever perfect season in NFL history is just that ..... only a dream.
Sport is full of favorites who supposedly can't lose; boxers, golfers, football teams. How you play when you're the favorite and are in a groove is one thing. How you play when you're the underdog and nobody gives you a cat in hell's chance is another. It's the true badge of character. Whether you believe the hype and lie down and surrender, or whether you stand toe to toe and slug it our until the final seconds.
And the same is true in business. When we announced the launch of our new Product X and said we were going to take the market leaders on at their own game, the press had a field day. Ridiculed our claims. Didn't give us a chance. Called it a 'David vs Goliath' battle.
But they forgot one thing ...... David won. And so can we ........
Anecdote 5: Dick Butkus- For when you want to talk about attacking the competition aggressively
In the 1960s and 1970s, the biggest challenge facing most NFL quarterbacks was getting rid of the ball before Chicago linebacker Dick Butkus separated their heads from their bodies. They had less than 4 seconds to get on their knees and pray for mercy before Butkus came charging into the backfield, tossing aside the poor schmucks assigned to stop him and rocking them into another orbit.
Over 9 seasons, he racked up over 1,000 tackles, almost 500 assists and 25 fumble recoveries (third all-time in NFL history). But impressive as these numbers are, they only tell half the story.
The half they don't tell is the sheer ferocity and vicious impact of each of those tackles. One opponent said of Butkus, "If I had a choice, I'd rather go one-on-one with a grizzly bear." Another said, "Dick wasn't just satisfied with an ordinary tackle. He had to hit you. Pick you up. Drive you into the ground." A third said, "He was Moby Dick in a goldfishbowl. His nine-year career stands apart as the single most sustained work of devastation ever committed on a football field by anyone, anywhere, anytime."
The guy himself said, "I wouldn't ever set out to hurt anybody deliberately unless it was, you know, important ...... like a league game or something."
But the 'Maestro of Mayhem' didn't clobber his opponents for the fun of it. He once explained, "The idea of hitting someone hard isn't for your ego. It's to make them forget about the ball." He didn't bother with classic, round-the-waist tackles, but hit his opponents high, wrapping his massive arms around theirs so they had nothing to break their fall with. Because when they were bracing to hit the ground like that, it took real concentration to keep hold of the ball.
And that's what we're going to do with this product launch. The package we're going to be able to offer our customers is so amazing, we're going to be able to hit the competition as hard as Dick Butkus. We're going to hit them so hard, they'll drop the ball ................
Anecdote 6: Harvard vs Yale 1968 - For when you want to talk about perception
The football rivalry between Harvard and Yale is so famous that to football afficionados it's known simply as 'The Game.' It's the second oldest continuing rivalry and the third most-played game in college football, but the most famous and unforgettable match took place in 1968.
For the first time, both teams were unbeaten heading into the final game of the season. Led by quarterback Brian Dowling, who incredibly hadn't lost a game since seventh grade, Yale rolled to a 29-13 lead, which would have been significantly greater had he not fumbled 5 times. With less than a minute to go, it was all over for Harvard, who had future academy award winner Tommy Lee Jones in their lineup. Even Joe Montana couldn't engineer a comeback in a situation like this.
And then ..... the unbelievable happened. Harvard scored two touchdowns in the last 42 seconds and earned a 29-29 tie.
It is one of the most incredible comeback tales in American football. The student newspaper ran the title 'Harvard beats Yale 29-29' and the result was so utterly amazing, so ... incredible, that in many people's eyes, the perception was that Harvard were the victors.
Such is the power of perception. in that sometimes it is more important than reality. Which is something I'd like you to bear in mind when we look at the results of our latest customer surey today. For while you and I know that our committment to our customers hasn't diminished one iota, the quite shocking news is that their perception is that it has. And they put it down to our doubling in size following the merger with XYZ .........
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