12th Girls: What Book Nerds Can Learn from Football

Here on the eve of the division play-offs, I felt compelled to share with you a nonliterary piece of trivia about the Girls Friday: We love football.

Specifically the Seahawks, though we make allowances for the poor GFs who grew up in San Francisco or live in the Bay Area or North Carolina now. Are you surprised? We’re all nerdy and we’re mostly girls. Shouldn’t we be all about the OED and not the NFL?

As I explained to Peter, my coach from business school, I don’t think our loving football is all about needing to scream our lungs out on the weekends or even watching the raw beauty of athleticism. (And while we love football, there’s a lot we don’t love about the NFL.) No, there is so much more to it than that, or at least this is how I justify it to myself when we spend hours every Monday morning deconstructing the weekend’s game.

Team

The whole point behind Girl Friday is that we’re good at an awful lot of things, and not just because one of us has brilliance or another got a bang-up education or another has been working in publishing for twenty years. It’s because of all those things, together. Without our team and our team approach, we just wouldn’t be GFP. We wouldn’t be nearly as good, nearly as effective, and we certainly wouldn’t have as much fun. Every time you hear one of the Seahawks players interviewed, do you know the first thing he does? He credits his team (12th man included) for the win. Russell Wilson praises the defense and his receivers. Richard Sherman talks about Earl Thomas’s amazing stops and Marshawn Lynch’s drive. Lynch . . . okay, he doesn’t say it (or anything), but we know in his heart he is all about the team. Each is a well-paid, talented individual; together, they are the Seahawks.

Community

Ingrid had a client, a thriller author in Texas, who called on Monday mornings during the regular season. You see, he’s a Seahawks fan trapped in the domain of Texans and Cowboys, and he really needed the connection. While I did overhear them talk about plot lines and narrative structure once or twice, I heard the term “pass rush” quite a bit more. This past week I attended a funeral for a neighbor, a tell-it-like-it-is Boeing retiree who was a mother hen to the whole street. As requested, everyone in attendance was wearing their Hawks paraphernalia. There was a lot of pain in the room, but we were able to tap into her longtime passion for the team, and it helped bring us together. This week, I’ve heard just as many people part with “Go Hawks!” as I heard “Merry Christmas!” during the holidays, and the entire city is awash in blue and green. Strangers, mail carriers, baristas, babies, bearded hipsters, old black men, young white women, and everyone in between. And in a city (and a country) where many of us experience community only via smartphone, how incredible is it how much football love unites us?

Smarts

The Hawks get lots of attention for using their fame and name for good. They fight cancer, they form foundations, they visit schools torn apart by violence. They display integrity and poise. A lesser-known attribute of this team is just how much they use their brains as well as their bods. You don’t even have to know that Sherman went to Stanford or that Doug Baldwin (or as I call him, Mr. Calculus) wants to teach math or that Steven Hauschka studied neuroscience at Middlebury (and graduated with honors) to know this is a smart group of men. They study, they learn, they shift, they adapt. They play great football, and they play smart. The Girls are all about smart.

Leadership

Every good leader knows that while it’s easy to invest in a skill set, if you don’t invest in the whole person—and care about and develop that individual—you’ve shortchanged your return on your investment. It turns out that not only does it feel good to interact with people in this way, not only is it good for them, for you, and for the world, but it’s also good business. Pete Carroll is a smart investor. He doesn’t listen to the hype and makes good investments in people, building them up and growing a team. He learns from his mistakes and displays humility. He mentors. He is about developing potential, and having fun doing it. And you see that same leadership carry through the players.

Metaphor

The Skittles. ’Nuff said.

Okay, that was the end of the post when I wrote it last week, but after Saturday’s game, I must add . . .

Kam Chancellor