by Dr. Miles Davis
Dean, The Byrd School of Business
Germany has won. The crowds have quieted. And life for the one billion people (15% of the planet!) who watched the World Cup has returned to normal. However, I cannot stop thinking of the experience of being there. I was one of the 700,000 visitors who swelled the cities in Brazil to watch the most popular sporting event on earth. And while some will most remember the improbable advance of the US team to the round of 16, Tim Howard’s heroic saves in the match against Belgium, or Brazil’s crushing defeat, I keep pondering the larger implications of what I witnessed.
The USA’s improbable advance out of “the group of death” demonstrated that the odds can be stacked against you; you can even lose; yet events can come together to make you a winner.
Tim Howard’s incredible saves make clear that one man can make a difference. When the opponent has gotten past the rest of your team, you still have to stop the ball; even if they get past your team 16 times!
Brazil’s 7-1 defeat—5 goals in the first 30 minutes—reveals the challenges of great expectations and the overselling of a team. Brazil had not played well against weaker opponents, yet it was assumed that its storied past and home court advantage would more than give it a chance against the Germans’ efficient scoring machine. The past does not matter when you step onto the pitch. It is only the game being played at that moment that matters. And even those cheering you on—those who have poured their heart and soul into believing in you—can only help so much if your team does not perform.
Though I will never forget attending the games or the FanFest on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, I will also never forget something else even more important. What I had the privilege to observe during World Cup 2014 was much more than soccer matches. The beautiful game offered lots of lessons beyond what was happening among the 22 players on the field, lessons that can be applied to both business and life.
Photos by the author