My youngest (7th grade) son had two friends spend the night with us last night while my other two kids were staying over at their respective friends’ houses. So Katie, the three boys and I settled into the “man cave” with great anticipation and snacks aplenty for these young men. Game 5 of the NLDS. Our beloved hometown Cardinals, the lowest ranked team to make the postseason, on the road against the Washington Nationals, with the best record in baseball and starting their best pitcher who won 21 games. Winner take all. In other words, one of those very, very rare occasions where one baseball game means everything. Well, rare for most teams. The Cardinals have somehow managed to face five of these win-or-go-home games over the past 12 months.
After only eight pitches in the first inning, the Cardinals were down 3-0. By the third inning it was 6-0. No team had ever come back from such a deficit in a deciding game of a MLB series. But there was no despair in our basement. Even the 12-year-olds watched with rapt attention — believing, hoping, cheering. October of 2011 was still fresh in their minds. The boys were mentally tough - even as fans. They reminded each other of last season’s heroics – in the Divisions Series, the National League Championship Series, and of course, The World Series. They talked about where they watched Game 6 when David Freese officially replaced Reggie Jackson as Mr. October. So there was a glimmer of hope.
I don’t need to recap the game. You’ve all seen the news and highlights. I’ve been a baseball fan for 39 years and couldn’t believe what I witnessed last night. Unheard of. Not possible. It doesn’t happen. Yet it did. Again.
We watched in amazement. Our basement ceiling is low and the boys were jumping up and down with such craze I feared they would bash their heads. It was awesome. We screamed. We cringed. We winced. And we watched as the Cards scratched their way back. I heard somewhere today that something like five times the Cardinals were down to the their final strike. How can that be?
Sometime during that improbable 9th inning, I simply said: You cannot kill this team.
There is something going on here that is beyond abnormal. They refuse to die. And they play like they’re crazy enough to actually believe that you can’t kill them. And this season was different than last’s. Despite losing their best player (Albert Pujols), their genius leader and long-time manager (Tony LaRussa), having the heart of their pitching staff (Chris Carpenter) out for 99% of the season, and their veteran shortstop (Rafael Furcal) injured and unavailable , they still believed. This final game was on the road as opposed to last’s years dramatics which took place in what’s come to be known as Baseball Heaven - Busch Stadium. And to watch all these guys batting in the last inning with two strikes — and actually have the eye, the patience, the calm and the discipline to take pitches — it was mind-blowing. Do you know how hard it is to take a close pitch with two strikes? With two strikes and two outs in the 9th inning of the final game when you’re losing? Those walks were impressive as those hits by guys most of the nation never even heard of before this week.
So why subject the readers of this sales blog to my thoughts about this incredible baseball game and improbable baseball team? Because it was freakin’ awesome. And inspiring. And fun (unless you’re a Nationals’ fan — so sorry arrogant DC media and members of congress ) Sure, I could probably make an attempt to capture a few pithy sales analogies to tie it all together. Instead, let me simply leave you with a few questions:
- When you feel like you’re not leading the competition in a sales opportunity, do you give in and just let the other guy win?
- Do you believe so strongly in the value of your offering that you refuse to quit when pursuing target accounts?
- Are you on a team that considers itself a winner and takes great pride in fighting to the very end?
- What can we learn about life and business and sales from games like this one?