I’m not a gambler. I run a business and not knowing what’s in store week in week out is enough of a gamble for me. I prefer the “sure thing”, so putting my money on a ticket, a football team and a long drive to London was a gamble too far.
Playing the game
I’m from Barnsley, which is a small mining town in south Yorkshire, the largest county in England, often referred to as “Gods own County”. But I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Sunday the 6th of April was the day Barnsley got to play in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in a very long time.
I and a few friends decided to make the trip to the new Wembley, to see Barnsley Football Club play Cardiff City Football Club.
Now, I should ask that you bear with me through this preamble, as the background is essential to the point I’ll be making towards the end.
Barnsley have had an astonishing run; they managed to beat off Liverpool and Chelsea in earlier rounds, both of which are Premiership sides, while Barnsley languish precariously at the bottom the the Championship, which is the league below them.
Liverpool and Chelsea are formidable footballing clubs, neither being what you’d consider to be push overs. All the same, Barnsley beat both of them.
It’s not like Barnsley just got really lucky. Every football pundit in the country would tell you that Barnsley won because they played the better football against formerly Liverpool and then more recently Chelsea.
So how come Barnsley lost to Cardiff yesterday? Because they played not like a side enjoying a rich vein of form, but a side languishing at the foot of the Championship, courting the relegation zone and demotion to Division One.
For the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, Barnsley were most definitely the underdog and an unknown quantity. As for Cardiff, they’re also in the Championship and they knew more about Barnsley. In the end, that may have been all the difference.
There’s something reassuring about failure — it’s often far easier to get something wrong than it is to get it right. And to keep getting something consistently right is something of an art form.
Business is no different than football, or any other sport, for that matter. Performance, accuracy, efficiency, professionalism and sustainable success are paramount, not peripheral or preferable.
Failure is an inevitability of trying to succeed
So as I sat there, watching my home town football team go a goal down in the 7th minute, I began to realize how transient loyalties are. Curses and insults rained down from the stadia, washing down into the lower reaches of the field, sure to be heard by both the media and the players.
In my estimation, you don’t really know a person until you’ve seen them in a crisis and when they’re drunk. Anything else is just so much talk. During that game of football and on my way home, I saw people new & old in both those situations. What I saw didn’t impress me.
When failure comes to those who achieve greater things than others, those who’re less accomplished and look up to those who achieve great things will seek out the differences between themselves and the achievers, using those things as reasons to admonish and vilify them, not realizing that those very things they identify as flaws are often the very things that make the achievers great.
I aspire to be great enough that should I fail, that I be able to do do with dignity…