The following is by Ben Hebert, a rabid Balitmore Ravens fan and the founder of WhiteRaverRafting.com. Republished from his site with permission. If a San Francisco 49ers fan would like to pen a counterpoint, e-mail us.
If the Ravens were playing another team, the storyline would be much different. We live in a world where sensationalized sports journalism gets the views, so expect heavy discussion of Jack versus Jim and helicopter views of the Harbaugh house in Wisconsin. The Harbowl is like a dream come true for the media.
Yet underneath it all there lies a true underdog story. The Baltimore Ravens, a team never endeared by the media, were expected to lose. They were a team that collapsed during the middle of the season. A team that fired their offensive coordinator. A team that limped into the playoffs.
First the Ravens had to sit down Andrew Luck and tell him that it isn’t quite his time yet. Ray Lewis isn’t done dancing. Then a double OT win in the high altitude and freezing temperatures of Denver against a quarterback they couldn’t beat. As six point underdogs in Foxborough on Sunday they came back and held the NFL’s most prolithic offense to zero second half points, moving Tom Brady’s perfect record to 67 and 1.
Against all odds, the Ravens banded together to overcome adversity and now find themselves set for a date in New Orleans. Never giving in to what the media or fans were saying, they epitomize the meaning of team. Each man supporting the next, forgoing personal interest or desire and willing to do whatever it takes for the good of the team.
Stories like this are truly special. No matter where you are in the world or what you’re doing with your life, there is a lesson for you in the Ravens’ crusade back to Festivus Maximus.
Trust is the most powerful asset of all.
Down 28 – 35 against the Broncos, Jim Caldwell trusted Joe Flacco to make a play. Flacco trusted Jacoby Jones to come down with the ball… and he made one of the most spectacular plays in Ravens’ franchise history. Harbaugh trusted Justin Tucker as he sent him out to kick a 47-yard game winner in subzero temperatures. It didn’t matter that he’s a 23-year old rookie.
When you trust and believe in one another, you’re able to accomplish incredible things. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a sports team, business organization or relationship. When you’re able to look to someone and know with confidence that they’re going to do the task at hand, it doesn’t matter whether they succeed or fail because you know that they put in every ounce of effort possible.
Motivation can make you superhuman.
When Ray Lewis announced this would be his final ride, it motivated the players who want more than anything to get one more ring for their general. It had little effect on the oddsmakers and experts who pegged the Ravens as heavy underdogs in matchups against Denver and New England, but the team played with a different fervor than I’ve seen before. There was no way they were going to let it end, not without making it back to the Superbowl.
The Ravens are a highly motivated team playing on emotion. When you’re motivated, emotional or driven towards accomplishing something, the feeling is superhuman. Nothing can stop you. If there’s a life event or experience that you can channel in providing extra motivation, then use it. Think about it every day and push yourself to achieve your goals.
When it’s time to pivot, you need to pull the trigger.
The Baltimore Ravens were 9-3, but had suffered back to back losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins. Coach John Harbaugh decided to fire then offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. With the playoffs looming many football pundits questioned the timeliness of the decision. Under Jim Caldwell the offense scoring points, using all of the weapons and finding ways to win games.
Every second that you invest trying to right a wrong or improve on something that’s broken, is time that’s wasted. If your relationship, ties to old friends, business model, college major or whatever isn’t working, then you need to make a pivot. You know what you’re capable of and it’s not settling for average. Even if the stakes are high, make the change.
Expect to win, but exhibit patience.
When Ray Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP he was 24-years old and will finally return at the age of 37. If you ask him, I’m sure that he would tell you that he expected to win each time he stepped onto the field and reach the Super Bowl each season. There’s no time to rebuild or work your way to something, if you want it then take it.
Winning should always be the expectation, but in sports or business there are many factors outside of your control. Patience is key, some things will take time. It’s important not to confuse that with waiting around for things to happen. Go out there and try to accomplish your dreams, just don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. You have to keep working and expecting to win. Good things will happen.
Prepare for the opportunity to get lucky.
With 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Jacoby Jones caught a 70-yard touchdown pass that will forever live as one of the greatest moments in Baltimore Sports history. Was it lucky that Rahim Moore jumped too early and incorrectly played the ball? Maybe.
What people don’t think about is how many times they’ve run that play in practice, how many sprints Jones ran or weights he lifted. How playing football his whole life developed the muscle memory needed to make the play. Work hard everyday so that when the opportunity to seize a lucky moment happens, you’re ready.
Champions bounce back from low moments.
In the third quarter, Dennis Pitta gets drilled by illegally by Jerod Mayo only to come back and score the go ahead touchdown on the very next play. When Lee Evans dropped that pass and Billy Cundiff missed the field goal last year, I was heartbroken. I can only fathom the emotions experienced by the athletes of the 2011 Baltimore Ravens who have been working their entire lives for that moment. The Ravens didn’t dwell on last seasons loss, putting the work back in to reach the AFC Championship for the second consecutive year.
The lifeblood of a champion is someone who can constantly get back up after failure. They avoid excuses or placing the blame, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Champions accept the outcome and keep pushing forward to do it all over again.
Success is the result of endless hard work and preparation.
Professional sports are unique because teams are business organizations that are dependent upon the actions of the inputs (players). There is no automation for success when you’re on the field. Success is brought only after the endless hard work by the players, coaching staff and organization. For some reason I don’t think that when John Harbaugh got back from New England that he curled up on his couch to catch up on his favorite tv shows.
If you’re the type of person that leaves your job and mentally checks out, what level of success do you think you’ll possibly attain? Successful people are rigorously working every day to better themselves and do the impossible. Maybe you aren’t in the right position now but do the preparation and hard work to get a new job, promotion or start a business.
I’ll leave you with some words from Ray Lewis:
“We get one opportunity in life, one chance at life to do whatever you’re going to do, and lay your foundation and make whatever mark you’re going to make. Whatever legacy you’re going to leave; leave your legacy!”
Ray Rice pic via Mocksession