Baseball is my sport. Sure, I’ll watch a football or basketball game if a social situation arises and it’s prudent to do so. And, occasionally, I’ll watch tennis at Wimbledon time. But I’ve been a baseball nut all of my life – courtesy of my Brooklyn-born Dad – and there seems to be no sign of this passion subsiding.
When the World Series rolls around, and the playoffs involve either my favorite team, the Dodgers, or my second-favorite team, the Angels, I’m jazzed. It’s a bit strange that they both have the words "Los Angeles" in their names, but I guess that’s one oddity we’ve all learned to live with. So you can imagine my glee now that both teams are in the hunt. Ah, maybe a freeway series isn’t an impossible dream this year. SoCal would be bathed in crimson red and royal blue if this occurs, as L.A. battles L.A.
But why am I talking about baseball in a business blog? Actually, baseball and business have interesting parallels. I like to think of baseball as the thinking person’s sport. Baseball differs because it has only a moderate level of action. (OK, some people would call it slow.) It rarely succumbs to violence, and it displays carefully crafted strategies from inning to inning. Kind of sounds like a day in the office for me – moderate action, no violence and lots of strategy.
Just take a look at the Dodgers’ playoff games so far. In the first three games, they showed how baseball is a team sport. No one player carried the team, everyone worked together – superb pitching, timely hitting and strong defense. They tended to play “small ball,” rather than rely only on home runs. Starting pitchers laid the foundation, with the bullpen throwing strikes to close out St. Louis.
And the Angels proved the same thing on Sunday, sweeping the Red Sox with team play. After Sunday’s game, Angels Manager Mike Scoscia commented that “the house of cards topples if they don’t all do it,” referring to the two-out heroics of five players to fuel the come-from-behind win.
I think of business as a team sport, too. There’s no way I could do what I do without an A team surrounding me. And no one here hits home runs day after day, either. Each role is important, whether on the front lines or in support. We work in teams, and we all get excited when any one person or team scores big here. Sometimes, we hit home runs – getting clients’ news into top-tier media, even on the front pages or covers. Other times, we play “small ball,” getting little mentions here and there and using social media channels like Twitter and FaceBook to make noise to just the right audiences.
Another parallel between baseball and business is luck. Yes, luck. We encounter good luck and bad luck in business, just like in sports. In baseball, good luck can steal a win from an opponent, as it did for the Dodgers in Game 2 against the bad luck Cardinals. Dodgers Manager Joe Torre considered the walk-off win in the bottom of the 9th a lucky break. I was there, and I’m still marveling at the split-second turnaround from near loss to triumphant win, stemming from an unfortunate error by the Cardinals.
So, too, in business, we deal with luck. Sometimes a client’s positive news has a straight shot, with no interference. Other times, even blockbuster news can’t compete with Mother Nature, with reporters en masse diverted to wildfires, floods, earthquakes, etc. What do we tell our clients? We explain it was bad luck that their news came when no one cared about anything in business because fire was roaring through the canyons. We did our job well, but the result wasn’t there, through no fault of anyone’s, just bad luck. But that’s not what they want to hear. And that’s not what the St. Louis or Boston fans wanted to hear, either.
In truth, there are a lot of parallels between sports and business, not just baseball. These are some of my idle thoughts when I’m watching the Dodgers or Angels battling their way into the World Series. And if either the Dodgers or Angels are there in late October, you’ll know where to find me. And I’ll be hoping for a team effort and good luck.