By Gino Blefari
This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA, where it seems as if the entire state is gearing up to host Super Bowl 50 on Sunday. And while my 49ers didn’t quite make it to the big game, it does take place right on my home turf, at Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara.
If you look at the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, you’ll know Super Bowl 50 should be an interesting contest of the league’s two best defenses that pits prodigy quarterback Cam Newton of the Panthers against veteran quarterback, Peyton Manning of the Broncos. It’s also an intriguing matchup when you take into account the rumors circulating that this Super Bowl game might be Peyton’s last. In fact, browse any sports news website and you’ll be met with a hailstorm of headlines debating this very question. Will he or won’t he? Would a Broncos win on Sunday change everything?
Well, yes. Because if Peyton does decide to make this his final appearance on a professional football field, a Super Bowl win would cement his quarterback legacy in the history of the game. Win one Super Bowl and you’re good (OK, you’re really, really good) but win two Super Bowls and you ascend to football greatness. However, there’s an inherent flaw with this way of thinking, in diluting a years-long career into one single day battling to become a Super Bowl champion. Is it really fair to reduce decades of late-night game tape reviews and early morning practices, endless examples of stunning fourth-quarter wins and incredible, how-did-he-do-that passes into just a few hours of play?
Vince Lombardi, famed Green Bay Packers head coach during the 1960s, once perfectly summed up what it means to win. “Winning is not a sometime thing,” he explained. “It’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”
In other words, of course a Super Bowl win is significant but if it does happen for Peyton, it would be symptomatic of the hard work and talent he’s put on display not only this Sunday but also since he first joined the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. Let me tell you this: One night does not a winner make. Winning, as Lombari described it, is an “all-time thing.” You’re not a winner because you score more points than the other team during a single game; you’re a winner because you made winning a habit every time you stepped onto the field.
So, what’s the message? Whether Sunday’s game really is Peyton’s last, there’s a lesson on leadership to be learned in the attention this decision brings to the true spirit of a winner. As Lombardi once said, “The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”