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Fanboy, The Super Bowl and Microsoft

February 5, 2018

So, there was this big sporting event yesterday. Honestly, I didn’t watch. But despite the lowest ratings in 9 years, a lot of people did watch the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41-33.

You know, Dad, if we leave church a half hour early, we could get home in time to watch the kickoff.

We have never watched the Super Bowl in your 15 years of life. What makes you think we’d change this year?

My sons really wanted to watch the Super Bowl. They were rooting for the Eagles. Our family has a pretty strict “no TV on Sunday” rule. If you watch TV on Sunday, that’s fine. If you watched the Super Bowl, that’s great. For my family we have a house rule that we’ve had for 30 years.

But, that means I’ll never get to watch the Super Bowl!

When you move out you can make your own decisions.

We had a birthday celebration yesterday that was also a direct conflict with the big game. I have to admit that we did check the scores occasionally. And my boys were thrilled when the Eagles held off Tom Brady and won their first Super Bowl.

If I had to pick a side, I would pick New England. I’m only a casual NFL fan. (Hard to be much of a fan when you don’t watch TV on Sunday.) I have friends from New England who are huge Patriot fans. They, naturally were disappointed at the result.

But, they didn’t feel responsible for the loss. And that’s an important distinction.

I worked for Microsoft for about 10 years. I helped with some of the biggest Microsoft products. I wrote training material for Microsoft Exchange. I even wrote a book on Microsoft’s email product. I also worked on the Windows product. I took great pride in my work and while it was only a small contribution, I felt a certain level of satisfaction when Microsoft mercilessly crushed another competitor.

After I left Microsoft in 2004, I sold my Microsoft stock and went on to other companies and other projects. However, anyone who saw my resume couldn’t help but notice the Microsoft years. Microsoft wasn’t a particularly loved company in the early part of this century. In fact, it was universally hated by almost everyone except the most ardent fans. I found that people who hated Microsoft would become somewhat uncomfortable criticising the company around me.

Don’t worry about it. I don’t work there. I don’t have any stock in the company. I literally have nothing to do with them at this point.

After I left Microsoft, I was no longer part of the company. That also meant I was no longer part of their successes. It also meant I was no longer part of their failures. I had the luxury of being a pure spectator.

If you don’t share the blame, you don’t share the credit

Today there are people rioting in Philadelphia. Fans are reveling in their victory. And yet, they really had nothing to do with it. They didn’t put on pads, they didn’t draw up plays, they didn’t even, for the most part attend the games. This is not a knock on Eagles fans. They are rated as the 5th best fans in the NFL. Nearly 70,000 fans attended each game. The city of Philadelphia has 1.6M people. The percentage of the populartion attending the games on Sunday was small compared with the total number of people in the city.

The percentage of rioters is even smaller, and it appears that some anarchist have used the celebration as an excuse to blow stuff up. My point is that as fans we tend to claim credit even when we don’t deserve it.

There was a movie called Fever Pitch about the Boston Red Sox finally winning the World Series after 89 years. At one point, Drew Barrymore’s character invites her boyfriend a huge baseball fan, played by Jimmy Fallon to go with her to Paris. He checks the calendar and realizes that if he goes with her, he’ll miss a Boston vs Seattle Mariners series at Fenway Park.

But, that’s when the Sox need me most

Fallon’s character was convinced that he was an important part of the Red Sox success.

The business lesson is that credit and blame go together. My dad used to say that “if you don’t have the authority you don’t have the responsibility.” Your role contributes to the success of a product or service only if your role can also contribute to the failure of a project or service. The Boston fans today don’t feel responsible for the Patriots loss. They, of course are disapointed, but that doesn’t include feeling responsible.

My brother once worked for a company that helped the Denver Broncos do data mining the year they won the Super Bowl. He felt like he got to share in their accomplishment.

Don’t take credit for stuff you didn’t do and don’t accept the blame for things you couldn’t change.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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