Fri. Aug 17th, 2018

The Underdog Mentality

It isn’t common to see a Catholic priest wearing a dog mask while leading mass. At least outside the city of Philadelphia it isn’t common. Underdog masks are in. Covering the spread as a road favorite against the Eagles is out. Many Philly players, fans, and yes — at least one priest, are fully embracing dog masks to symbolize how the Eagles are thriving as underdogs.

The Eagles punched their ticket to Super Bowl LII by shellacking the Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Quarterback Nick Foles temporarily forgot that he’s Nick Foles. He looked more like Joe Montana while throwing for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns. His passer rating was 141.4. That’s around 735.8 on the Foles scale.

How is a team winning such huge games after losing key players like Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, and Jordan Hicks for the season? They aren’t just fighting for themselves. They’re fighting for one another.

I know, we’re approaching dangerous territory here. Most of us start to get nauseous after hearing phrases like “nobody thought we could do it.” Our stomachs start to do somersaults when players say “everybody counted us out.” We feel like we ate an expired enchilada when coaches say “it’s us against the world.”

Those comments might make us roll our eyes as we reach for the Pepto-Bismol, but being united is something that every business should strive to duplicate. When employees worry less about themselves and more about one another, that’s when something special can happen. Consider the definition of tight-knit — united or bound together by strong relationships and common interests. That’s what the Eagles have right now. How can your radio station have the same thing?

Radio doesn’t offer as many “win one for the Gipper” opportunities as sports. It’s not like a station manager is going to say, “Alright everybody, John has laryngitis and can’t do the show this week. We need to pull together as a unit and rally around him!” Injuries are virtually non-existent in radio compared to sports. The next-man-up philosophy doesn’t typically translate to the airwaves, but there are a few other areas that are very similar to sports.

I was driving around Nashville on Tuesday and heard an interview with new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. One of his comments really stood out — he wants to hear less talk about I and me, with more focus on us and we. I love that philosophy. It’s the most beneficial quality to have on a team or staff, but it’s one of the hardest things to establish — no individual matters more than the team.

Radio and sports are twins in this area. There are plenty of athletes and hosts that don’t care about the team. They care about earning a big contract extension and getting the limelight. Just like selfish players can destroy a locker room, a selfish radio employee can destroy a building.

It’s vitally important to actually have a team instead of a collection of individuals that are only concerned about getting theirs. I sometimes hear co-hosts trying to outdo each other on the same show. It’d be like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant battling for supremacy while trying to sabotage one another. Do you think the Warriors would be as successful? Nope. The real competition is with the other radio station across the street, not within the same building. It’s us versus them, not us versus us.

Defensive end Chris Long is donating his entire salary to charity this season. Quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t feeling sorry for himself after tearing his ACL. He’s behaving like an assistant coach on the sideline. The Eagles are far from selfish and the results reflect it.

Another area where sports radio needs to better resemble sports — ranking systems shouldn’t exist. Radio stations have a tendency to use an imaginary totem poll — the person who hosts a show once a week on a Saturday isn’t regarded nearly as highly as the weekday morning host. This is a lousy way of making someone feel like they’re part of the team. Special teams stud Matthew Slater isn’t as important to the Patriots success as Tom Brady, but his contributions are valuable. What sense would it make to throw rose pedals at Brady’s feet while completely disregarding Slater? It wouldn’t.

Sure, star players are paid differently, but they’re often treated the same. There are classic stories about Gregg Popovich scolding Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, or Belichick calling out Brady just like a role player. That’s a winning culture. Pedestals and preferential treatment don’t exist.

It’s incredibly important to make sure your staff feels like they are part of the team. Managers and hosts need to make everybody feel like they’re valuable. A board op should feel as important as the producer. A co-host shouldn’t be spoiled while the update person is treated like spoiled milk. The weekday host shouldn’t be treated like royalty while the weekend warrior is dealt with like hazardous waste.

There’s a reason why so many coaches embrace an underdog mentality — it cuts through a lot of BS and gets the team moving in the right direction. The run the Eagles are on doesn’t just fall from the heavens. Head coach Doug Pederson has played the hand he was dealt masterfully. After beating the Falcons in the Divisional Round, he loudly said that nobody is giving the Eagles a chance. That instantly unified the team by amplifying the doubt from outside. A radio station can function the exact same way.

The underdog masks the Eagles wear are cool in a creepy way. It’s sort of like a workplace training video mixed with elements of a freaky horror film. It’s less about the mask and more about the mentality behind it though. Selfishness only gets in the way. Ranking the importance of players is just a waste of time. Underdogs like the Eagles have to use every resource to win. Regardless of your job title in radio, you need to do the exact same thing.

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