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A masterclass in risk-taking from the New Orleans Saints

By Angela Harbutt
February 8th, 2010 at 4:51 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, UK Politics

sean-payton-with-superbowl-trophyBig occassions need big men. Men that will rise to the challenge, galvanise their team and take some big risks – when it really counts. When history is in the making you dont want Mr Timid knocking at the door. Opportunity rewards the bold and the brave. So it was with sheer delight that I watched the underdogs – the New Orleans Saints- scoop the biggest prize of all – the Superbowl.

If you did not watch the game, this may mean nothing to you – go watch it. But Sean Payton (the Saints coach) proved himself to be one of  the gutsiest coaches ever to come to a Superbowl game.

The Colts came into the game clear favourites. The first quarter went  as expected. It was all Colts; at one point they were leading 10-0 and many thought, I am sure, that it was game over. The Saints seemed to be taking too many risks – like going for a touchdown when a field goal could have been banked.  But by the end of the second quarter the Saints had fought their way back into the game not by changing their game plan – but by staying true to it. By half time it looked clear to me that the Saints could only win if they DID take those risks – and by jove that is what they were doing . With the score standing at 10-6 to the Colts (and much of the money on the Colts) I put my money on the Saints.

Coming out at the opening of the second half – Sean Payton did the unthinkable – he took another, huge, risk calling for an onside kick to keep posession with the Saints. Yes it was risky but it proved to be as brilliant as it was unexpected. From there on in the Saints never really looked like losing. Nor did they lose their willingness to take risks – going for a two point conversion, with all the risks that entailed (and challenging the call when it was ruled foul). These boys were going for it. They kept the brilliant (arguably the best ever ) Colts quarterback Peyton Manning out of the game for over an hour and that probably proved decisive. When he did get onto the field they kept the pressure up – eventually winning that well deserved (and brilliantly taken) turnover. Actually I think the Colts were technically the better team on the night but they had no answer for the passion, the risk-taking and team spirit of the Saints. The Saints won 31-17.

So what has this to do with politics or the Liberal Democrats ? I think that Nick Clegg can learn a great deal from the Saints coach Sean Payton. And I urge all Liberal Democrats to go watch the game. It is a masterclass in leadership – of stepping up to the plate when the big game is on – of taking risks – of having faith in your team and your team having faith in you – giving them the belief and the tools to win – and win when it mattered.

After 43 years of mediocrity these first time finalists had not fared too well in recent years. They had been the also rans for too many years. So when opportunity came knocking, boy were they hungry for it. Second was not enough.

Offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said “You know you’re going to be competing to win, ” …. “..You want to know that Coach backs you, he has faith in our group, and he’s going to put us in situations to be successful.” ….”So those aggressive points -(risks!) – he’s putting the ball in our court, saying, ‘Go make a play, guys. I’ve got faith in you. Go make me right.’ That’s exactly what you want.”

Linebacker Scott Fujita agreed “(The coach) came in playing to win this game….You like that… He’s got a certain swagger about him, it carries over to the offense….Now you’ve got a lot of guys playing aggressive, playing confident”

Thats what we want to see from Nick, (ok not the swagger but) but  leader of men that says “go for it” . We will take risks, because playing it safe is not good enough – and the prize is worth winning. This is the best chance we have had in a very long time so lets not have regrets later about where we should have been bolder. Lets be brave.

Ok we can’t win the Superbowl (can you imagine Vince in shoulder pads?) . We can’t win the election. But we can make history. We can change politics forever – and thats our Superbowl. I am not sure who our quarterback is, but Nick needs to be our Sean Payton. Please go watch the game Nick.

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