Here is the first of two Super Bowl Previews (one highlighting each team) and why one can be justified in pulling for either team in Super Bowl LI. Legendary NBA executive and coach, Pat Riley wrote a book in 2013 called The Disease of Me, a treatise on how self-centeredness (being curved in on one’s self) can and does sabotage even the best of teams (be it a team in sports, business, family units, etc.). Riley speaks from a place of experience, having had both underachieving and overachieving teams as a coach and GM in the NBA.  Here are Riley’s key points (ht SW, NFL Network):

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Let’s face it, Riley’s “conclusions” (for those of us who have paused for more than a moment to consider the human condition) are a big bowl of DUH! Coaching a professional team in the modern era is as much (or more) about controlling egos as it is about X’s and O’s. When an NFL team, like the Atlanta Falcons, is led by a $100 million quarterback (Matt Ryan) and a $100 million wide receiver (Julio Jones), there isn’t much cash left under the salary cap for the rest of the 53-man roster. Thus, if those two best players embody any of Riley’s “danger signals”, the likelihood that everyone else will be rowing in the same direction diminishes.

Enter Falcon’s head coach Dan Quinn (new last year). He’s “Coach Bro” to those who know him best, because of his fondness for words and phrases like “awesome”, “hunger index”, “I’m jacked about it”, “pumped to be with you”, etc. He is Jeff Spicoli, if Spicoli were also meticulously organized, intensely relational, and bald as a cue ball.

There’s a story that has circulated around the Falcon locker room since preseason about this thing called “brothership”. Legend has it that earlier in this preseason, Dan Quinn was trying to get a point across to his team about two relational concepts, “fellowship” and “brotherhood”. The team was buying in fully, but they were still somehow confused about how the two terms were different. Do we have an intense relational commitment to each other and have each other’s back in a way that would be something like a “fellowship” (queue up Frodo and his comrades) or do we have a “bromance”/loving commitment to each other like something that adds up to a “brotherhood”? Fullback Patrick Dimarco then chimed in with “um, brothership“?  Boom.

From that moment till now, every Falcon gathering on the sidelines (pre-game and mid-game) breaks with a resounding “BROTHERSHIP”!  Yes, it’s very corny, but if you are without a team to pull for in the Super Bowl, there it is–brothership. It’s cheesy for sure, but inspiring, just like coach Dan Quinn. All you need to know about the Falcons (other than the fact that they are LEGIT) is that they have a mysterious belief in the cure for “The Disease of Me”. For better or for worse, they are all in on this notion that their whole kicks the “sum of their part’s” ass. Their two best players, Matt and Julio, personify the concept. ESPN’s Steven A. Smith was more eloquent than usual about Julio’s “not diva-ness” here:

Julio needs a savior like the rest of us. But as a defiant force in the face of the “Disease of Me” that haunts the NFL, Julio represents the mundane, anti-diva–as NFL wide receiver–the football position where fast guys with good hands go to be divas! Meanwhile, his quarterback, Matt Ryan, matches him in class and might even pass him in Andy-Griffith-Awe-Shucksness. Looming for the Falcons are the daunting prospects of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and a record NINTH Super Bowl for the Pats (more on them next week). For now, consider Coach Bro, and a team consisting of Matt and Julio and a brothership. Don’t count them out.