With Super Bowl LIV upon us, I thought I’d share a bit about why Super Bowl XVIII remains my favorite Super Bowl. Really, it was Super, featured the launch of the iconic Apple Macintosh, and offers a few lessons in leadership!
Building a Team: A First for Tampa: This was the first Super Bowl to be held in Tampa. Everyone was excited about the game. Tampa was on the national scene, finally! Growing up in Tampa in the 1970s and 1980s gave me a firsthand view to how a city and region can dramatically transform because of an influx of people and investments. It was exciting to see new buildings constantly and to meet new classmates from northern cities and to ask them about cold and snow and then to silently question if it might have killed a few of their brain cells. Tampanians or Tampeños, as Tampa natives are known, always looked suspiciously at people who lived in the cold. Now, Tampa was on the national stage to showcase everything that was great about the Next Great American City (our tagline at the time)! The whole marketing of the event was an example of great regional participation, unmatched in any other Super Bowl. The Super Bowl XVIII poster even made reference to the industries of the region, its great assets of climate, water, natural beauty, and attractions. Walt Disney World participated in the halftime show, and everyone worked so the region had a tremendous and positive showing to the nation. Streets were landscaped with new oaks and palms all over town. In our classes in St. Lawrence elementary school (located just a few miles from the stadium), we had homework assignments requiring that we report on the game and its impact to the people of the city. I have never been part of something that was so important to a city. I remember that participation and remain amazed by it. When a team of 3 or 4 can’t come together at work (who are getting paid), I think, how is it that a region of millions could do something harder (and not get paid) and be successful? It was simply amazing to see what happens when people really care and feel pride!
Lesson: Pride matters a lot! Instill it in your team.
A First for a Major Upset and Blowout: The Washington Redskins were highly favored going into Super Bowl XVIII. They beat the Don Shula-led Dolphins in the previous year, in Super Bowl XVII, a win that has long upset me (kinda still does, really). I have always rooted for the Florida teams. Now, the Redskins and their stinky Hogs (nickname of their potent offensive line) were headed to my hometown. I was really looking forward to seeing them lose to the Los Angeles Raiders. Lose they did, and by the largest margin in any Super Bowl, up to that time, 38-9.
I like watching upsets (well, when my team wins) and seeing a convincing win like that is all the more impactful and cherished. At the time, as a young boy enthralled with football, I collected NFL felt pennants. I wanted a pennant of the Raiders and of the Redskins to commemorate the game. These were only available at the stadium and the surrounding stands. I decided to buy the Raiders pennant before the game with my limited funds (I had money only to buy one). The vendor told me I should by the Redskins pennant because it would go up in price after their sure win. I disagreed with his outlook. I asked him to give me a Redskins pennant after the game for free if the Raiders won and if I bought the Raiders pennant from him. He agreed. I collected my free pennant after the Raiders beating of the Redskins. I felt happy. My team won, and I got something for free, only because I believed and asked.
Lesson: Ignore the pundits. Negotiate when you can.
An Amazing Apple Super Bowl Ad: The famous 1984 advertisement that leverages the name 1984 to invoke the famous book 1984 aired for the one and only time during that Super Bowl. It launched the Macintosh or Mac brand for Apple. How did McDonald’s not Trademark Mac? I am writing this on a Mac Book Pro. The brand began on Super Bowl Sunday in 1984.
The advertisement shows a young lady destroying “big blue brother or the blue man,” a reference to IBM, presumably. What an intellectually deep advertisement! Big Blue is not even in the PC market today.
It remains a classic even today, having won countless awards, and could be shown today with much correct. However, with the rise of tech giants, the message might be the same, but Apple might be one of the firms being attacked with the hammer, today. How things have changed! Let’s take a look at Apple’s stock since 1984.
Lesson: Time value investing works. Specific equities (at least some) beat markets over the long term. Be brave to go very long, like Steve Jobs. Beating the average requires “thinking different.”
High Prices, Graybar and Volunteers: There are many things about Super Bowl XVIII that remain vivid for me. I was able to attend the game with my father. My father’s employer worked with Graybar, which provided our tickets. Graybar is the electrical firm set up by Elisha Gray, the other inventor of the telephone. His historic home and former workshop, where he did his great work, are just blocks from my former home in the Chicago suburbs – the world is small and interconnected. We can never escape or deny this. It was hard to get tickets locally; everyone wanted to go. Many Tampanians or Tampeños volunteered to be ushers, performers, greeters, and the like to attend. Tickets went for a face value of $60, a 4x mark-up from the tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneer games, which we regularly attended. It seemed liked a huge premium, but worth it!
I understand that Super Bowl LIV tickets are on the order of $400-$5000, which makes them at least 20x-40x of the price of a regular season games of today. Surely, the game is about corporate sponsorship more than ever. That is a massive inflation in the price of Super Bowl tickets. Good, for the NFL, I guess. Bad, if you want to attend a game.
Lesson: Examine how you are connected to the people and places around you. Watch the Super Bowl at home; the prices are too high.
Hispanic Celebration: Tampa is home to a vibrant Hispanic (most traditionally Spanish and Cuban) population. Tampa even moved its annual Gasparilla parade in 1984 from February to January to correspond with the Super Bowl festivities. The parade celebrates the legend of the Spanish pirate, Jose Gaspar that buried his treasure near Tampa. I loved that the game was played in Tampa Stadium, which is just next to West Tampa and the significant Hispanic community that makes West Tampa so special, even to today. The game had special significance because of Hispanic participants, too. Super Bowl XVIII was a second Super Bowl win for Raiders head coach, Tom Flores and Raiders QB, Jim Plunkett.
Tom Flores was the first significant Hispanic coach in the NFL. Jim Plunkett was born to Mexican-American parents and also is of Hispanic heritage. Each won in Super Bowl XV and repeated in Super Bowl XVIII, yet neither is in the Hall of Fame today. How does that happen when the league says it is more focused on minorities and their contributions to the league? With so few Hispanics in the league, it seems a few seats in the Hall of Fame should be easier to come by. Consider this. Bill Parcells wins one Super Bowl and has Scott Norwood give him another (in Tampa, btw, in Super Bowl XXV), and has the Packers destroy him in a third, yet he beats Flores to the Hall of Fame. If the Hall of Fame means anything, Flores should be there, along with Jim Plunkett. Flores is a two-time Super Bowl winning coach and not included in the Hall of Fame. Jim Plunkett has an amazing personal story, overcoming a family life of many challenges including low family income and blindness in his parents to win a scholarship to Stanford. He struggled early in his NFL career, moving from one losing team to another. His success late in his career is inspiration for all people that success can really be just around the corner. What perseverance and dedication to fight through the challenges and doubters and strive for excellence! You can always have a new day – tomorrow! Two NFL icons that belong in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Lesson: Hispanics matter, and not just in election years. And success is really a reward for hard work, perseverance, and courage. Have those in excess.
Enjoy the Super Bowl!
Professor Walker provides keynote talks, seminars presentations, executive training programs, and executive briefings. Click here to learn more about his talks, references from clients, options for customized talks and programs, and details on scheduling a program for your organization.
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Professor Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and Big Data. He is teaches at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. His most recent book, From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics, by Oxford University Press (2015), explores how firms can best monetize Big Data. He is the author of the text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management through business case studies.