This past Sunday’s Super Bowl game was a stunning victory.  I was certain that Atlanta had it in the bag, and New England pulled it out.  I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the Patriots’ locker room during half-time.  What was said?  How did they defy the odds?

We may never know the key to the turnaround.  However, there are likely many lessons we can learn from the game.  One that was evident to me has to do with statistics.  When the Falcons were winning 28-3, a political pundit said that they had an 86% chance of winning the game…the same odds as Hillary Clinton.  I guess one lesson is that statistics aren’t destiny.

I asked a few football enthusiasts what they thought we can learn from the incredible and unexpected New England victory.

Ben Eisen, ‘17 at TCW, said “even when failure seems certain, it may be avoided. A dramatic spark or catalyst can cause a great turnaround, and it can only be reached if one stays hopeful and optimistic….With perseverance, New England was able to battle back and create this spark that gave them additional momentum for a game tying drive, and eventually an overtime win.”

Noah Greenberg, ‘17 at TCW, echoed Ben’s point and commented that the big lesson was one on the power of determination.  However, he also observed that “certain statistics (like the 86% chance of winning the game or election) are merely educated predictions. While everyone likes to be comforted by favourable statistics, it is important to understand that once game time comes around (especially the Super Bowl), they don’t mean much. I say this because it is very tough to predict how the individual human will react/perform ‘in the moment.’”

Max Handelman, ‘17 at TCW, highlighted the importance of taking a responsible risk when it comes to success.  He notes:  “Both the coaches and players had to make risky moves and decisions in order to give the team a shot at victory. Playing a conservative game in the second half would not have brought the Lombardi Trophy back to New England for the fifth time in the Brady Era.”

However, sometimes it’s about luck.  Adam Gropper, ‘16 from TCW, admits “that some luck is involved in every great triumph because had the Falcons won the OT coin toss and scored, the Patriots great comeback to force overtime would have been forgotten.  Sometimes winning is the result of hard work, preparation and perseverance, but sometimes it’s just determined by a coin flip.”

Mr. Shindo, one of our Phys. Ed. teachers at TCW, pointed to the value of staying calm and true to one’s core.  He put it this way: “Although the Patriots were down 28-3 with three minutes left in the third quarter, they did not panic under adversity. The Patriots played their style of football by executing a flawless passing game by throwing under the defense to their slot receivers and capitalising on the mistakes that the Falcons made.  When faced with adversity try not to panic, focus, and revert to your game plan to achieve your ultimate goal.”

Mr. Chaim, the Athletic Director and a Phys. Ed. teacher at TCK, waxed philosophic on his Facebook page and wrote:  “It’s never too late.  Don’t ever count yourself out of anything no matter what others tell you. You can do anything you set your mind to, and impossible is a myth. Take that and go be whatever you want to be. Go do whatever you want to do because you can.”

Mr. Steinfeld, head of Jewish Thought and a Rabbinics, Talmud and Tanach teacher at TCK, suggested that the key to success if often a focus on small wins, “one play at a time.”  He added another key element.  “Belichik,” the New England coach, “creates a culture of accountability, humility, and profound work ethic.  Players who demand too much money, or who think they’re invaluable find themselves traded quickly.”  For Belichik  “it’s not about the individual, but the team, and the team is about achievement and execution, professionalism and humility.”

I’ll end with Sam Neumark’s ‘17 at TCW, pithy observation which harkens back to the adage “it ain’t over till it’s over.” He applied the lessons of the game to school.  “No matter how bad your mark is in a class halfway through the year, it is always possible to raise your grade in the second half of the year if you put in the effort.”

There you have it, sports fans.  Super Bowl 51 showed the power of perseverance, hope, determination, risk-taking, the limitless capacity to achieve, not panicking, focusing on small wins and accountability, not quitting in the middle.  What a game!

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