POINT TO PONDER
Example is leadership.
STORYLINE by Rajiv Shah
If you are a football fan, as I am, then you are most likely gearing up to watch the Superbowl this coming weekend. But my thoughts are not on the New York Giants or New England Patriots but on a team that lost two weeks ago in heartbreaking fashion, the San Francisco 49ers. I'm still reeling over Kyle Williams' two, yes two, miffed punt returns that led to scores that shouldn't have happened and put the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. The two scores were fatal as the final score read: 20 - 17 in favor of the Giants. And yet, amidst the loss and my misdirected blame towards Kyle Williams, the 49ers have managed to teach me about teamwork in a way I couldn't have expected.
If you don't know the story, Kyle Williams is a second string receiver that was put into the NFC Championship game after the starting kick returner, Ted Ginn Jr., was out due to injury. So in the biggest game of young Kyle Williams' life, he wanted to shine. Shine he did not. He ultimately let his whole team and a great city down. If you need a recap here's a video that should catch you up:
But this reflection is not about just the doom and gloom. Mistakes happen and great leadership is needed most in times of peril. What impressed me and much of the media was the way the team handled the mistake and the missed chance of a trip to the Super Bowl. It was an example of the tone Jim Harbaugh sets with his players - one that could be seen in what he did with a team in his first year as head coach - that was last year 6-10 (under coach Mike Singletary) and did not even make the playoffs with much of the same personnel. Following the defeat 49er players circled around Kyle Williams, patting him on the shoulder, encouraging him to keep his head up, and telling the media that he wasn't the one to blame that they all could have played better. Jim Harbaugh did not blame Kyle Williams and neither did his teammates, they won together and lost together. It was truly one of the redeeming things that you could take away from the loss - that the leadership creates that team atmosphere - and that the future does indeed look bright.
How easy is it to pass on blame when things go awry? Very easy, as I myself am guilty. I am only a spectator and I blamed Kyle Williams for the season. Is it fair of me to do this when his own teammates stand up for him? That's when I realized the true substance of this team, what the leadership instilled in them, and what I could ultimately learn from this football team.
Leadership and integrity, true winners, are not about passing the buck. They take ownership over their failures and successes. It could have been too easy for Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers to blame Kyle Williams for the loss. Winning happens, so does losing, but what counts is how you handle it as a team. The nature of a team is set by the leadership and Jim Harbaugh has led by example.
How the 49ers handled the loss - and Kyle Williams - reminds me of one my favorite Rumi quotes: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there."
Enjoy the Superbowl!