Super Bowl LIII — or 53 to fans of non-Roman numerals — is this Sunday and it features two teams that you could argue shouldn’t be there.
This is a business blog, but let me dive quickly into football talk. The New England Patriots were driving down the field in the AFC championship game trying to tie the score in the final minutes when its star player threw an interception (he threw the ball to the other team). That should have doomed them, but a referee called a penalty on the Kansas City Chief who was not involved in the interception, nullifying the play, and the Patriots went on to win the game and, with it, a trip to the Super Bowl.
In the other playoff game, the New Orleans Saints were tied with the Los Angeles Rams and were trying to drive down the field for the winning score. On a crucial third-down play, the Saints threw the ball to an open receiver. Before that guy could catch the ball, a Rams defender smashed into him, helmet first. The Rams player hit the Saints receiver in the head — which has been outlawed — well before he could try to catch the ball, which has never been legal. In this case, the referee didn’t call either penalty.
Instead of having a first down and a chance to run the clock down to 1 second and kick the winning field goal, the Saints were forced kick a field goal with lots of time left in the game. The Rams got the ball back, tied the game and won in overtime.
So for the past two weeks, there has been more talk about the teams that aren’t playing in the Super Bowl than the teams that are. Yet the Patriots and Rams, who will take the field this Sunday, aren’t apologizing for their hard work and, in the end, good fortune.
The business lesson here is that the Saints and Rams have no need to apologize.
The teams prepared game plans, practiced plays, took the field and put themselves in position to win — and got some luck along the way. If they hadn’t put themselves in position to win, those plays wouldn’t have mattered. There is a reason that people who consistently work hard and prepare seem to be luckier than those who don’t.
Whether it’s as a small-business owner or a career job, there are things you should never have to apologize for in business. Theladders.com listed seven such things in an excellent 2017 blog post: