The Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl Hangover: How Do You Maintain Success?
If you’re a sports fan, you’ve known about curses.
No, not the kind that the microphones accidentally pick up during a game broadcast—the kind that prohibits your favorite team or athlete from achieving success. Once upon a time, the sports landscape seemed to be littered with supernatural efforts against certain folks.
One of the most famous was The Curse of the Bambino, which kept the Red Sox from enjoying a World Series title from 1918 until 2004. Close on its heels was The Curse of the Billy Goat, the genesis of Chicago’s lovable losers, the Cubs, from 1908 until 2016.
But there were also curses that weren’t team specific. Instead, these curses could take out any athlete or program.
During my career at Sports Illustrated, everyone knew about the infamous Cover Jinx. People would remind me often how many cover subjects went on to lose the next week. And for a while it looked like the “Madden Football” curse might be real—at least until the people at EA Sports decided to put Tom Brady on the cover. Brady, apparently, defies ALL odds.
There’s at least one curse still in full effect, and it’s wreaking havoc with the Philadelphia Eagles this year.
It’s the Curse of the Super Bowl Hangover.
Fresh off last Sunday’s 41-point butt kicking at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles are in the midst of one of the most painful hangovers ever. After an offseason of celebration that included a now-famous parade, the release of books by both head coach Doug Pederson and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, and a whole lot of Philly pride, the 2018 football season has been far less kind.
I’m not really one that believes in curses, but there’s a reason these “things” gain traction: they keep happening.
In the case of the Red Sox and Cubs, it’s easy to believe the fates are against you when your team finds new ways to invent futility for the better part of a half-century (or century, in the case of the Cubs!) And with the SI or Madden jinx, the power of coincidence was hard to ignore.
Just as real, it seems, is the Super Bowl hangover. Just ask the Falcons, who can’t live down the 28-3 memes that became internet fodder after their Super Bowl meltdown in the 2017 Super Bowl. Or look to the Carolina Panthers, who followed their appearance in the 2016 Super Bowl with a 6-10 season.
Heck, the Broncos, who won the Super Bowl in 2016 against the Panthers, haven’t been right since.
While there are plenty of reasons that could explain these stumbles—coaching changes, free agency, injuries—I think one of the best explanations comes from the mouth of Mike Ditka.
Ditka, who guided the 1985 Bears to a Super Bowl title, once told me, “On the way to the Super Bowl, it’s all about we. After you win, it’s all about me.” Ditka said he was caught off-guard by how quickly everyone – from the Bears’ players to their administrative staff – took credit for the team win and wanted a raise for their contribution.
I think Coach is dead on.
There’s something about human nature that makes us vulnerable to complacency after success—on the way to a goal, we’re encouraged, motivated, committed. But once that goal is attained, we tend to settle; we drift back into old habits, lazy thinking, mediocrity.
We see this all the time in business. A company makes a huge earnings goal or gets a new product to market, and suddenly all the focus is on what’s been done instead of what needs to be done. We see a co-worker hit a performance goal or get promoted to a new role, and suddenly the same drive and work ethic that got them there evaporates like morning dew.
We also see this in the mirror. If you’re honest, you know you’ve had seasons where you were content to coast instead of pushing yourself to the next level. Each of us has experienced a time when we simply stopped paying the tolls on the road to success.
That’s not to say that celebrating accomplishments is wrong—it’s not. Letting the celebration remain our focus when we should be turning to the next task is when things slip off the rails.
Is a lack of focus the cause of the Eagles’ misery this year? Maybe—that’s something the players and coaches would have to address. Can a lack of focus cost you or your team? Absolutely.
If you feel like you might be suffering from a bit of a success hangover, the cure is remarkably simple. Go back and examine your most recent success and ask yourself, “What did it take for me to get there?”
Re-walk that path to victory and make a note of the habits and mindsets you adopted in order to get the job done. If those specific habits and mindsets won’t work this time around, commit to developing new ones that will.
Then, once you know what to do and how to approach the work, avoid the temptation to keep celebrating yesterday at the expense of today and tomorrow.