Derek Jeter never took a play off. He was always full speed ahead.
I like watching blowouts in sports just as much as close games. Of course, a tie game heading into the bottom of the ninth is exciting, but to me, the home team being down 10 runs going into their final at-bats is just as interesting.
These routs are the best reality shows you can find. Because when a team has no chance of winning – or is in the middle of throwing its opponent a beatdown - you can tell how much character each player has. In a baseball blowout, who is still running out ground balls? In a basketball blowout, who is still guarding his man as if his life depended on it?
Those are the special human beings. Those are the heroic people (as opposed to being just heroic players). Sure, I loved Derek Jeter for seemingly always getting a hit at the right time. But I love him even more for the fact that he played hard every inning, every pitch, for the entire season. He would grind out every single at-bat. If you watched Derek, you could not tell if the Yankees are up by 20, or down by 1. You could not tell if they were in last place, or if they had already clinched the division.
In other words, Derek Jeter played the game, not the score. He knew that in order to be ready when the situation calls for a clutch hit, he has to play his best all the time. Not just when there’s glory on the line.
A few years ago, I was asked to give a speech at the groundbreaking for the Xanadu shopping center at the Meadowlands (now the American Dream Meadowlands). I was very excited, because the Governor of New Jersey and the local congressman were also scheduled to speak. This was big time!
But during the event, the wind went out of my sails. The two politicians spoke before me, and after they went up, they left the auditorium altogether. In fact, after the governor spoke, most of the audience left! I was crushed. I was just about ready to mail in my own speech.
But then I thought about my heroes, like Derek. I thought about how they’d treat the situation. Of course, they’d give the same speech they intended to give at the beginning - it wouldn’t matter to them that the governor left. They’d know that the few people remaining in the audience still deserved their best.
I put my all into my speech. I gave that small group of people the Best of Brandon Steiner. And when I finished, Mark Lamping, CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company at the time (and now President of the Jacksonville Jaguars) came up and introduced himself. I hadn’t known he was there. Mark had loved my speech. He wanted to do some work with me. It was big time after all!
You just never know when opportunity is gonna come knocking. So you have to be on your game all the time.
Are you? Do you grind it out at work? If I visited you at the office, would I be able to tell from your body language if you were having a bad quarter? Would I be able to tell, from your productivity, if an important deal just fell through? Or, for that matter, if you just closed a big deal, or got a new account? Will you be your best when the next opportunity knocks?
Are you playing the game, and not the score?