I was grateful to have the chance to watch the super bowl at a friend’s house with my family. While the kids played Nerf guns and scarfed junk food (alright, I had a Klondike bar… it was there), we watched as both teams took the field. The energy from the stadium was palpable, even from the comfort of my buddy’s living room. Although the spread was 3 points, the Falcons were clearly the underdogs, having been in the Super Bowl only once before (and lost). So, as far as the crowd was concerned, it would be amazing if the Falcons could win, but really, just making a ‘good game of it’ would be a feat in itself. As for the Patriots, well…this would be their 5th Super bowl win if it went their way, and after steamrolling just about every football team that dared to show up this season (I’m sure a few would have preferred to do something else with their Sunday), they came in self-assured. They believed they would win, and, with crowd’s energy backing them up, as well as the energy of the millions viewing on their big screens, they had the energetic ‘home field’ advantage.
The only problem was the Falcons. Without the external pressures of being ‘expected’ to win, the Falcons had the ability to put all their focus and unencumbered energy into their game. They were able to play with a detached effort, a sharpened focus, unburdened with outward expectation. The crowd cradled the underdogs in positive energy every time they grabbed a momentary ‘win’ from the Patriots, whether it was a tackle at the scrimmage line, forcing the Patriots to punt, or, heaven forbid…give up a touch down! The energy was palpable, and it fed the Falcons’ confidence. A win felt possible, while the Patriots ‘play’ felt uncomfortable, and forced. You could feel their embarrassment. It felt as if the fans in the stadium had all gotten together and made a giant energetic foam finger, and pointed it at the Pats, laughing. The Falcons rode the fans’ supportive energy for all it was worth, dominating the now ‘not so unbeatable’ New England Patriots with a score of 28 to 3 by the half.
But therein lies the rub…
It took some real time for Lady Gaga to fly around the stadium during the half time show. Shortly after she dropped herself into that ‘hole’ (where did she go?) and the stage was broken down, both teams took the field again. Only now the fans had a new underdog to cheer on…
With every pass that Tom Brady completed, the fans’ energy washed over him, and the Patriots’ confidence in themselves grew bolder. As for the Falcon’s, well…let’s just look at this for a minute. How many teams have lost a Super Bowl with a 28 to 3 lead at the half? (And went back to their respective cities and lived to tell about it?). With every inch of turf gained by the Pats, the Falcons played energetically ‘tighter and tighter,’ playing more ‘not to lose’ than with the unbridled energy, passion, and confidence of the ‘let’s go win this thing’ that they had in the first half.
It’s not as if the Falcons’ physical abilities changed (sans a conspiracy theory that the Falcons all sat down for ‘half-time’ turkey dinner in their locker room, and the over-load of tryptophan was just too much for them). The ‘fear’ of possibly losing the Super bowl after a 28-3 lead, along with the oversized energetic foam finger of the fans now laughing and pointing in their direction, caused the Falcons to become self-conscious and play ‘small.’ Their emotions may not have been on their sleeves (because of the shoulder pads) but they were written all over their faces… Right up to when the Patriots won the over-time coin toss. Between the crowd’s cheers and energetic ‘lift up’ of the Pats, and the over-whelming obvious shrinkage and self-conscious play of the Falcons, it was less of a surprise, and more of a ‘right’ when the Patriots drew first and last blood scoring first in over-time to win their 5th Super bowl.
External fanfare (energy) is fickle at best, and it is one thing to take it in and allow it to add fuel to your self-confidence, focus, and determination. But, when it is relied upon solely, your external environment is given the ‘green light’ to govern not only your positive feelings about yourself, but your negative as well. When you govern what energy from the external environment you allow into your grey matter, you are in a much better position to take in and ‘own’ the external positive energy that is supporting you and add to your self-confidence. You are also able to dismiss the harmful external energy that can infuse self-doubt into our efforts when you are struggling. Keeping a mindful eye on what you are allowing in, keeps your emotions, your energy, and your effort consistent and in the present: the place where your best effort in anything you deem worthy of doing resides. It is this capacity to take in the positive energy from your external fan-fare when it is there that strengthens your resolve and sharpens your focus when you are ‘on a roll’. Just as the ability to rally your own positive, supporting energy and confidence, while discarding the energy of an external hostile crowd, feeds your efforts when you are struggling and striving for your ‘finish-line.’
My family and I left somewhere in the third quarter (kids had school the next day), and we drove home thinking that the Pats had little chance of turning the game around. It was inspiring to know that even without my faith and energy in them (as I’m sure many had written them off and withdrawn their energetic support), that the New England Patriots had chosen to believe in themselves anyway. It made the victory that much sweeter for them, I’m sure.