“Do you like sports?” Lonnie Helfand, an old industry friend, asked our managing editor Kate Gamble during a break at the NJ HIMSS/HFMA “Meeting Consumer Needs in an Era of Population Health” event in Long Branch, NJ last week.
It was all I could not to break out laughing, as Kate is one of the biggest sports fans I know.
“Sure,” she said. “I used to be a sports reporter.”
From there, Lonnie launched into a discussion whether Cam Newton’s post-good play antics are a good thing or a bad thing. This was one of only two current choices in the football world, with the other being whether Peyton Manning will retire after the game.
Now, for those of you who are not sports fans, I first have to say that Cam Newton is an amazing talent. One of the knocks on him, however, are the antics cited above, which many describe as showboating, grandstanding or showing your opponents no respect. A self-proclaimed Superman, he never fails to let his opponents, and the crowd, know just how great he feels his last accomplishment has been.
Of course, with the year the Panthers have had — chalking up only one loss so far — it’s been easy to brag. But, as my friend Dave Miller wrote, it’s not that hard to be captain of the ship during calm seas.
So what’s going to happen when the tough times return to Carolina, as they always do everywhere? What’s Cam going to do? Is he going to throw a towel over head and sulk as he was prone to do during the first few years of his career? Or will he stand up and be counted? Will he lash out at teammates or will he throw the weight of the team on his shoulders.
As Lonnie, Kate and I were having our discussion, I remembered a scene from the Kurt Warner edition of “A Football Life” — a great show that profiles some of the game’s greatest players. In it, I found a real nugget on what makes a great leader.
Mike Martz, the former offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, was talking about how he knew when the team had something special in Warner (who wound up coming from nowhere to have one of the greatest seasons any quarterback has ever had).
“I think the one incident that happened in the pre-season that told me this guy’s ready is, we’re in a run drill, the center snaps the ball and it didn’t come up to Kurt’s hands, there’s a fumble and the defense got it. I lit into Kurt for dropping the ball — and I knew he didn’t even touch the ball — (but) I chewed into him and gnarled him for about 20-30 seconds on the way back to the huddle, and he never gave the guy up, he took the bullet, which is what you’ve got to do, didn’t blink, it didn’t faze him. (I perceived) great character and strength out of that moment. When that happened, I just felt like he as going to be special.”
I personally like the style of play where when you score a touchdown, you hand the ball to the referee and get back on the sideline to make sure you’re ready for your next assignment, and I’m going to try to teach my boys as much. Is there a relationship between humility and leadership? I sure think so.
Now, all of this is not to say that Cam won’t win on Super Bowl Sunday and treat us all to some of his usual over-the-top fare, whether we like or not. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Great performers like Warner understand that leaders take the bullets, protect their troops and they set an example of how to behave — both to their teammates and their opponents.