Why Football Rivalry Games Inspire Me

Jessica Bost, COO, Wealth Advisor

I love football so much.

It’s enjoyable in almost any scenario, it’s full of traditions, it’s unpredictable, it’s wrought with just about every emotion imaginable … it’s just … awesome. My affection for it simply cannot be overstated.

I especially love University of Georgia football. I love the experience of the game-day stadium, the tailgating, the sea of red and black, the 4th quarter lights, the “dawg call” of a devoted crowd glued to the action on the field. I also truly love the experience back home – around the TV with friends, food, and family, and even more so on the occasion that I get to banter with someone who happens to be on the opposite side of that night’s dividing line.

In financial planning and so many other parts of life, we can learn a few good lessons from football.

Gameday Execution

My hopes have been high for UGA this football season – many of the key players have seemingly limitless potential, and I have cautiously wondered if this could be the first year I’ll be alive to see the Dawgs take home the National Champion title. As all great stories go, however, this year has proven to be more of a roller coaster than a smooth ride, marked with both domination (three shut-outs so far) and a debacle (nope, still can’t even talk about it).

So the game against our longest-standing rivals, the Auburn Tigers, was pretty special – a defining moment for who was to own this year’s SEC East Championship Title. The stakes were high, and everyone, even the sportscasters, appeared to be unsure of their expectations. Going into the game, Georgia was favored over Auburn by a meager three points.

It’s in moments like these where I firmly believe you witness the truly successful teams – the ones who believe that the future can be better than the present and that they have the power to make it so – plant their flag. The ones that, because of their innate belief in themselves, have already invested the disciplined practice required to succeed.

Gameday execution is a glimpse of the whole picture, an opportunity for the fans to taste the success along with their chosen team; but the true feast is enjoyed by only the ones who have put belief into action on the line.

Flashback to the game. For three quarters that Saturday, the Dawgs owned the field – their belief was palpable. With an early 51-yard touchdown pass to Blaylock and two other passing plays that led to the endzone, the message they were sending seemed crystal clear: these Dawgs were here to eat.

Rise Up and Fight Back

Then the fourth quarter – (Insert weeping and gnashing of teeth and tearing of garments for ten solid minutes). Aside from the unmentionable game earlier in the season, this was among the toughest moments of the season to be a Dawg fan. We are all well aware that the Bulldogs have certainly had their share of games where losing came down to a quarter – whether it be due to comfort or disbelief – of taking their eye off the ball – (Insert other unmentionable games from previous seasons here).

After the swell of emotions experienced on the way up, losing has then felt even more devastating. The thought of losing the Auburn game late in the fourth quarter, after all the effort and accomplishment that was achieved in the 55 minutes leading up to that moment, literally made my heart ache.

I wanted to go back, take our ball and our three pity points everyone suggested we deserved, and go home. Live to fight another day. Anything but watch that game crumble into the steaming pile of ashes it seemed to be headed for.

Yet, as football and many other sports events tend to do (again, one of the reasons why I love it so much), there was yet another plot twist. As Fromm took a knee and Kirby chest-bumped Walker, I was celebrating a much more special – and dare I say hopeful – ending to the 2019 Georgia-Auburn chapter.

That night I saw a team – my team – rise up and fight back. That night I saw a team – my team – prove that their future could be better than their present, and move the chains even in the face of regression along the way. This grit – this determination to dig even deeper for the victory in that defining moment when your belief is tested – is unique to those who achieve success, and my team defined theirs during the last ten minutes of play against the Tigers.

Success is Defined in the Trenches

Still, in reality, we only saw a part of the process, a part of the drive, a part of the work they put in leading to that moment. In reality, we saw the execution – but not the background, the early mornings, the late nights, the truly hard work that winners must do.

Though I truly love it, football is still an odd sport. While everyone knows it is a team sport, we typically blame two people when things start going wrong: the coach and the quarterback. Despite the truth that success is defined in the trenches, we get lost in the wow, the leadership, the execution.

Yet, consider this: if the line can’t block or tackle, it doesn’t actually matter how good our coach is during the game or if our QB can throw downfield. To see amazing execution of the pass or run, the team must first handle the fundamentals. And in a rivalry game, the intensity in those trenches is amplified. Everyone is pushed to the limit and we find out who put in the work to hold up under pressure, allowing their team to execute.

Teams that believe in themselves, do the work, have a sustainable process, and have grit – those teams earn the opportunity to execute at the highest level. That’s one of the most memorable lessons from football.

So, flash forward to the post-season. I’m all in. Still loving football and now able to borrow a bit of the belief they demonstrated and excitedly anticipate the SEC Championship game and ultimately the National Championship game. I believe something really special is happening with this 2019 UGA football team, and – whether it’s in the stadium or with my friends and family – I’ll be here for every moment of it.

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