What I Learned from Sean McVay
It wasn’t until after the last play that I was glad I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Patriots fans no doubt loved the whole afternoon, but my own assessment was that it wasn’t really a very enjoyable game to watch—low scoring, mostly defensive play. And there weren’t any truly breakout ads (even the traditional “Clydesdales” ad was more Bob Dylan than beautiful horses). The halftime show will be remembered as one of the least memorable—although Gladys Knight really nailed the national anthem.
The best moments of the afternoon, from my perspective, came after all that, when the coaches met the media. It was there that Sean McVay—coach of the losing team, the Los Angeles Rams—won the day.
Coaches are pretty good at carefully rehearsed soundbites, but this was no ordinary soundbite. And it didn’t sound rehearsed. It sounded like the real emotions of a great coach forced to look back over the game just completed and acknowledge the loss. When Coach McVay came to the microphone after the game and spoke to the media for the first time, he turned everything I thought I knew about soundbites on its ear. He managed to say something amazing and he only needed a few words to do it.
“You know, first of all, just—congratulations to the Patriots, they did a great job, Coach Belichick did an outstanding job. You know, there’s really no other way to put it. I’m pretty numb right now, but definitely, I got out-coached, and I didn’t do nearly good enough for our football team.”
“I got out-coached.” Those three words redeemed the whole afternoon.
In this impromptu paragraph filled with respect for the opposing team, the opposing coach, and the game itself, McVay embodied a moving and eloquent humility. I can’t think of another moment in professional sports when someone was able to so quickly and concisely demonstrate respect—even though I know that it is a value that many athletes and coaches absolutely espouse.
Respect leads the list of values that define Adventist HealthCare. (“Respect: We recognize the infinite worth of each individual.”)
Respect grows out of the principles of fairness, kindness, civility, and sincerity. It is measured by how we treat not only those who have influence over us or our future but also those who can’t do anything for us. To demonstrate respect is to show that we care. It is to purposely respect the dignity of every person and every role.
While the Rams lost the Super Bowl, they didn’t lose heart. And Coach McVay’s respectful comments were soon matched by those of his players—who insisted that that it was a loss shared by the whole team. In comment after comment, the players made it clear that it was a loss that would do nothing to dim their respect and trust in one another—and their confidence in the leadership of their coach.
Outside linebacker Dante Fowler summed it up by saying, “He told us honestly it felt like he could’ve done better. I felt like I could’ve did better as well. That’s a great coach, very young, 33, in the Super Bowl. His future is really bright.”
Honesty, optimism, and eyes already fixed on the future: It’s what happens in an organization that values respect. And for one young coach, it is a reason for pride and purpose, even in a moment of defeat.