Details can make a difference

Do organizational culture and routine matter when it comes to sports?

Does the little stuff matter? Making our beds in the morning, settling into a routine, abiding by ALL your company's rules; at the end of the day does it really make a difference?

For me the answer has always been… no. I was the kid who always refused to do things which I considered "unnecessary". I remember arguing with my parents about making my bed each day. "Why bother, I'm just gonna unmake it later." I was also the kid who was told to take out the trash at a certain time, to which my response was "gimme 10 minutes". I could go on, but I think you get the point. I wasn't a rebellious kid by any means but I was the one who questioned things, who fought against the routine, who believed I knew better. I think a lot of you who read this article will feel the same way.

Last year my company, which works in the Nuclear field and focuses on safety, decided to add in some safety measures across the organization. And by that I mean the unnecessary stuff. We were told to start our conference calls with a safety message. For example "make sure you don't text and drive" and give stats about why it's bad. In the parking lot we were told to reverse into all our parking spots because accidents are less likely to occur this way. Walking down the hallway we were told to not text and walk, to hold onto the handrail on stairs, and to always carry our coffee in sealed mugs. The worst part of it all, we were told to remind each other of the rules and enforce them. If you're like me when you hear that stuff, you roll your eyes. How stupid right?

When looking at sports today, it's funny how much of that same attitude is clearly on display. Sports are something most of us play when we are kids but for those select few who are able to be professional athletes, it is a job. There is a routine to follow where showing up at the gym, in the film room, and at the meetings is a requirement. In 2019 there are already a few stories in the NFL that come to mind; from former Dallas Cowboys player David Irving quitting football and bashing his coaches to newly acquired Jets RB Le'veon Bell skipping mini-camp. The rumors coming out of New York following Odell Beckham's trade have also been a headline; criticism from his former organization and reports of how he was a bad teammate. Now are all of these stories equal? Of course not. But when I hear them I can't help but think of myself fighting against the routine, believing that I know better. If I was a professional athlete would I fall into this category?

As much as I hate the Patriots and the "Patriot way", it's pretty much a given that players will act a certain way and not miss events if they are on the team. Throughout the years we have seen some pretty aggressive moves by the Patriots organization to enforce that, including benching star CB Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl. But the question becomes, does it work? Does this type of organizational culture and routine matter? Or do they keep winning simply because Brady and Belichick are just that good?

While the answer for me has always been no, the recent change in my company has forced me to face the hard truth… that this stuff might matter. Though I begrudgingly complied with my tasks, I was certain the safety rule changes would be laughed at and ignored by most. If anything it would create an office where people hated those who ratted them out, right? It had to… and yet it didn't. One year following the implementation of the program our safety record is better than it's ever been. Office accidents dropped to basically 0% and our work with clients has improved across the board. In response, our management gave each of our employees a bonus with the money we saved.

And just like that I was forced to think back. Not making my bed and waiting to take out the trash never stopped me from getting a degree in Nuclear Engineering and Physics or an MBA from Rice. But at the same time I also have memories of having guests visit the house and my bed looking terrible, and of saying I'll take the trash out in 10 minutes and then just simply forgetting. Events that my wife is now forced to witness on a regular basis.

Will Le'veon Bell's decision to skip minicamp destroy his chances of winning a super bowl or affect his relationship with his team? Probably not… but at the same time, maybe? Maybe it's not a coincidence the players who have a history of skipping the small stuff tend to not win, and maybe it is. I think I'm a smart guy and when the rule changes were implemented for my company I honestly thought about Allen Iverson and his famous practice rant. We provide safety to Nuclear Power plants and we really talking about holding a handrail in the office? "We talking about Practice?" But now that it's all said and done I gotta ask myself should I be the one changing my mindset? After all, how many rings does Iverson have again?

Saints lock up NFC #1 seed in dramatic 31-28 win

The good, bad and ugly of the Saints win over the Steelers

Michael Thomas was clutch. Michael C Hevert, Saints website

The Saints came into this game needing one win in their last two games to lock up home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. They pulled it off in dramatic fashion 31-28 over the Steelers. Here's how I saw things:

The Good

-Michael Thomas caught 11 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. He now owns the team record with 120 catches in a season. Drew Brees found him in the end zone on a back shoulder throw that was supposed to be a fade, but Thomas stumbled. He's firmly established himself as a top five receiver in the league.

- Mark Ingram got his 50th career rushing touchdown in the first quarter, which is a team record. He brings the thunder while Alvin Kamara is the lightning. Kamara has 22 so far in just his second season.

-Saints special teams stopped the Steelers on a fake punt run up the middle that led to their game winning touchdown and the defense came up with a game-saving fumble recovery on the Steelers' last standing drive. Those two phases of the game are critically important and they came up big in the clutch today.

The Bad

-Taysom Hill threw an interception on a deep ball to Tedd Ginn Jr. He let the ball hang in the air too long and it was just about fair caught. Josh Hill was flagged for a horse collar tackle on the return. Not the ideal way you want to start your first offensive possession.

-Eli Apple was called for pass interference that placed the ball at the two yard line. Then two miscommunications in man coverage led to a Steelers touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game at 14 under a minute left before halftime. This capped a 16-play 97 yard drive.

-Brees took back to back sacks late in the third quarter after the Steelers cut the lead to 24-21. Saints punted and it gave the Steelers the momentum they needed to take a 28-24 lead on the ensuing drive.

The Ugly

-The pass interference call on Joe Haden against Kamara on the 4th down play was ridiculous. I understand Haden extended his arms, but he did nothing to prevent Kamara from catching the ball. Refs continue to make calls that swing the momentum.

-Terron Armstead injured his pectoral muscle again. It's apparent that the five games he missed due to the injury and the brace he's wearing means he's playing hurt. His health is clearly linked to the offense's ability to run at full strength. Securing the first round bye and home field would mean a lot to his health and overall performance of this offense.

-Steelers may have exposed a weakness even more so in the Saints defense. When they went five wide, the Saints had trouble stopping the pass attack. Ben Roethlisberger tore the defense up whether it was short, medium, or long passes out of that formation.

This was a fun game to watch. Seeing two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks duel in their primes always makes for good football. But it was the defenses that made it exciting and special teams that came up big. Oh. And Brees had yet another 300+ yard game. Now they won't have to leave New Orleans in the playoffs unless they make it to Atlanta.

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