Better Than the First Day of School

Yesterday was the First Football Sunday of the 96th season of the National Football League.  I took the whole day off from writing my next book. The working title is Pitch Perfect: Speak to Grow Your Business in 7 Simple Steps. Helping people find their voice and toot their own horn about their business is a victory that moves me more than a great game. But, I must admit, the thumping music of the opening fanfare on CBS did bring tears to my eyes.  This sport not only moves me—it moves Americans as no sport ever has.  I think it’s because times are tough.  In the face of this inevitably-not-as-fast-as-we-want-it economic recovery, we just want to see someone win something – and football does just that!

And Peyton is still there! It’s the man to whom I dedicated my football book, the CEO of his team, the “coach on the field” who is smart, courageous and makes everyone on his team better. Peyton Manning is one of my heroes:  everything he says off the field, in pre and post-game interviews, can be quoted by business leaders to their people.

The old cliché among women used to be, “Oh, no, football season has begun—there go our Sundays!”  I have the opposite reaction:  “Oh, good, I got my Sundays back!”  I love spending 13 hours in front of the games every Sunday.  This Sunday felt “normal”—first time since last February—and I’m not alone. 43.2% of NFL fans are women. The cool part is, women make up a larger percentage of the audience in older groups: 40% are women 55+, while 31% are 35-54, and 29% are 18-34. Woo-hoo!

So I’m glued to the NFL, and I’ve noticed in sports bars that women have a different relationship to sports than men. I could do a whole speech on this. Here’s what ESPN’s research shows, and I concur:

  • For men, watching sports validates them. Women must constantly prove that they are real sports fans.
  • Men like detailed statistics and past performance history. Women like basic statistics and personal stories.
  • Men and women are both big fans of the NFL. But women also really like figure skating and the Olympics. Men like NCAA football and the NBA more.

Here’s the difference I personally love the most: men are overjoyed when their team wins and devastated when they lose – sometimes for days. Women are happy with wins and disappointed with losses, but move on quickly. Finally! A situation where women move on more quickly than men!

Most of all, I love the start of the season even more than I used to love the first day of school.  It’s a clean slate.  Every team is 0-0.  Everything is possible, just like in a new job or working with a new client—Great Success looms large.  As many athletes say, when asked if they are nervous about the new season, and if they feel the pressure to win again, they say, “I’m excited—not nervous.”  I’m with them.  All hope for the season ahead. Anything is possible, people. Never give up.

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