Tag: sports analogy

What I Learned from the Super Bowl 52 Halftime Show: Part 1

Hold on. This isn’t about the quality of Justin Timberlake’s dance moves during the snippet of “SexyBack” (yeah!) or how the show would have been SO much better with an N*SYNC reunion. Give me a couple of paragraphs worth of time to explain this.

One night, in a bout of typical insomnia, I noticed one of the local Minnesota news stations asking for people to sign up to work during the Super Bowl Halftime Show since it was hosted in Minneapolis. Because it was 3am and I was lacking sleep, I signed up. I assumed there would be 6,000,727 other people that did the same.

Two days later, I got an email congratulating me for being selected as a Field Team Member for the Halftime Show. I had no idea what that meant or what I’d be doing, but OKAY LET’S DO THIS. That was in early December.

We had our orientation in mid-January at a church that was being used as a hub for a lot of training, located right in the middle of the chaos that was being built up in downtown Minneapolis during that time. Roads were closed. It was cold. Parking garages were taken over by weird equipment. There were gigantic tents built in empty parking lots. I was whiny and told my wife, who I was leaving at home with our three year old and two week old, that if orientation was dumb, I wasn’t going to do it.

This is what it looked like while we waited. It’s pretty top secret:

After about 400 people checked in to this optional orientation, we started by watching the Lady Gaga Super Bowl Halftime show. It’s worth sharing.

Then we’re introduced to a guy named Cap Spence. Bookmark this link to read about him sometime. I wish everyone could work for a Cap Spence at some point in their life. He has stories and, man, does he have stories.

For 1.5 hours, Cap made sure we were clear about our expectations in being a Field Team Member. We would be putting together the stage for the halftime show. AWESOME. We would not be watching any football of any kind during the Super Bowl, nor would we be standing around watching a Justin Timberlake concert. We especially would not be playing “grab ass” with JT. Cap’s words, not mine.

I wanted to live tweet the whole thing. I decided it’d probably be a bad idea to do that once Cap told us all we “need to quit nursing at the digital nipple” and be completely present in rehearsals. Made sense to me.

What did I learn from the Staging Supervisor for the past 17 Super Bowl Halftime shows?

I learned I had to trust that he knew what he was doing. There were 21 carts full of stage parts that were going to need to be put together in less than six minutes and he was going to show 500 volunteers with zero experience how to do it with six rehearsals. Completely out of my control.

I needed to only focus on my job for those six rehearsals and trust that everyone else was doing the same thing. It worked for Lady Gaga in 2017, for Katy Perry and Left Shark in 2015 and for Prince and his amazing stage in 2007. Somehow, it’ll just work.

On the train ride home, I unequivocally knew it was going to be awesome.

Photo by me.

Leadership Lessons from a Four-Time WNBA Championship Team

 

I went to Game 5 of the WNBA Finals a couple of weeks ago to keep tabs on my Minnesota Lynx and make sure they won the 2017 WNBA Championship. They did. You’re welcome. I had goosebumps from the minute we got our seats. Pretty sure my deodorant stopped working, so I tweeted about it. I almost chewed a hole in the giveaway shirt we got because a score that close in the last two minutes is not my favorite thing. I was able to breathe once there were 57 seconds left in the game and the Lynx were ahead by nine points. And really, I just wanted the Lynx to not even get close to any of the Sparks players because they are… something. The timeouts were killin’ me because listen. You are down by that many points? It’s not gonna happen and you’re just prolonging my high blood pressure from going back to a somewhat normal state. Okay – Lynx won. I was stressed out and trying to distract myself during the FIVE BILLION unnecessary timeouts and really terrible halftime show, so, you know, I was thinkin’ about HR-type stuff. (Shut up.  I love it.)

Backstory for my non-WNBA friends: Lindsay Whalen is my favorite WNBA player, possibly my favorite athlete. She’s a 13 year veteran point guard of the WNBA, graduated from the University of Minnesota, got drafted by the Connecticut Sun, came back home to the Minnesota Lynx in 2010 and now has four championship rings. That’s the short story. Even shorter story: she’s a true leader in every since of the world. She’s not the taller player, the best shooter, or the fastest runner, but she doesn’t have to be. She just knows how all those things work together well and where she fits into the mix.

Here’s my favorite example over the course of the WNBA Finals: Game 4. Lynx are down 2-1 in the series. They lose again, they lose the Finals. Not an option for Whalen. 1:30 into the game and she flattens the Sparks point guard to put an end to a fast break and gets a flagrant foul called. The Sparks hit both their free throws. Didn’t matter. The energy that Whalen fueled by putting the stop to that play sent the Lynx into a place where they desperately needed to be and it sent the Sparks into the opposite direction. The Lynx won.

You’re thinking I’m just telling you this story because I like reliving the mental picture of Whalen clothes-lining another point guard. You’re half right. The other reason is because it’s a pretty great example of how a leader can let other people focus on their jobs while figuring out how to  make things better in ways that other people aren’t focusing on.

I don’t think anyone else on the team knew how to get that energy back, including the coach. They knew the gist of how to win a game: play hard, score points, shift the momentum, all those sportsing things. But Whalen knew that something had to give, and I’m pretty sure the court gave a little bit when that other player hit the floor. Not the most orthodox approach, but one that was worth trying because nothing else was working. And it did.

This isn’t a personal story or a work story. It’s a combo of two of my most favorite things and it’s an observation of what an amazing, hard working, in the trenches leader looks like from a different perspective. And it was awesome.