Tom Brady. (George J. Abraham photograph.)
“Toss to White…HE’SSSSSSSSSS IN! Patriots win the Super Bowl!”
That’s Fox sportscaster Joe Buck’s call of New England Patriots running back James White’s overtime touchdown run. With this run on Sunday the New England Patriots did what no team in 50 previous Super Bowls was able to accomplish. They came back from the largest point deficit any team ever faced in the Super Bowl (down 28-3 in the third quarter) to tie the game in regulation. They went on to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34 to 28.
Immediately following the game I watched and listened to excited on-field interviews with Patriots players. I waited to hear any uncertainty about winning by any player (there was plenty of doubt in their fans, even among their most loyal fans). There was no hesitation they all believed they could achieve the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. I heard a unified theme. “We kept believing,” Patriot wide receiver and special teams player Mathew Slater said. “And here we are.”
The baseball great Yogi Berra’s quote, “It’s déjà vu all over again” came to mind. In 2004 the Boston Red Sox accomplished a similar miracle of sorts. To beat the New York Yankees in the American League Baseball Championship Series the Red Sox had to become the first (and so far, only) team in Major League Baseball history to come back from a 0–3 game deficit to win a seven-game series.
Every Sox player post game interview I heard after their history making achievement expressed their no doubt attitude. Along with signs and tee shirts sporting “Why not us?” and “We believe” players had broken down the task of winning the last four games of the series to “one day, one game, one inning, one batter and one pitch at a time.” Here is what I wrote at that time.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the 25 players of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, after losing the first three games of the American League Championship, focused on the monumental task of winning four straight games. Imagine that to a man each thought about baseball history and the fact no team in a baseball playoff series had ever come back from such a deficit. Imagine that the team thinking turned to individual thinking in the clubhouse and it began to resemble a stream branching out into individual channels. Imagine that no leaders existed to focus the wandering and scattering channels back into a single stream. Imagine that every player did not believe in their ability and the ability of their teammates. And that they were not open and willing to adopt the philosophy and approach to break down a monumental task into what is doable; each day, each game, each inning, each batter and each pitch as the only thing that matters. If they envisioned anything but this their results, I imagine might have been very different.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox and 2016 New England Patriots are very visible examples of how success producing thinking works. Constant reinforced philosophy provides inspired motivation for individual thinking which in turn is the foundation for individual and team success. “If you think it is possible it is!” The determining factor is strength of belief.
In the end, it was all pretty simple. Players focused their mind to operate for the function intended, without scattering and wasting energy on any outcome except the one desired and in the end no obstacle deterred it. Matthew Slater summed up what happened, for the team (and fans) referring to the Patriots victory in Super Bowl LI, “And here we are.”
William “Bud” Hart is a certified “Mindset” Coach, Accountability Partner and Business Consultant. Visit Hart Group, www.hartgroupma.com for more on coaching.