Winning by playing beautifully is often the Holy Grail of sporting performance. Of course like everything that is desire-able in life, winning and playing beautifully both together is often hard to attain. If you had to sacrifice one, which one would you do?
It’s a surprisingly tricky question. Because you would think simply achieving the difficult task of winning itself should satisfy all parties with vested interest like players, coaching stuff, fan, owners of clubs, local media etc. But it rarely does. In the recent over-hyped “Fight of the century” which created a new Pay-Per-View record in USA of $500 million, Floyd Mayweather”s strategy of playing it smart to keep constantly moving and staying away from Manny Pacquiao’s brawling style of punches was heavily criticized by a lot of boxing fans as too calculative and safe. Jose Mourinho may be the most successful club football coach of recent times but he is heavily criticized for deliberately playing defensively against big teams in big matches and win with counter attacking style. In the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, Mourinho’s Inter Milan won 2-0 despite having only 33% possession of the ball and having 50% less number of shots than opponent. Even as recent as last month Mourinho, now the coach of recently crowned EPL champion Chelsea, won against Manchester United where the losing team had 71% of the possession where Chelsea scored with his first shot on target in 38th minute. The Mourinho camp usually calls this a stroke of genius who does this trick over and over again, but not everyone is bought over.
Its surprising to what length people would go to demand sports to be attractive for viewing and not just trickery for winning. In Brazil, where football is synonymous to “Joga Bonito”, which means “the Beautiful Game”, the fans demand style over winning. Here its not enough to simply grind out a win, which for Brazilians and millions of their fans around the world is what the Europeans do to win matches at any cost. Despite leading his team to 1994 World Cup championship, captain and star midfielder Dunga was heavily criticized for the thuggish style of playing. When he came back to coach the team in 2010 World Cup, the same furor break out once again. In fact, in recent years there has been more concerns about the destruction of beautiful Brazilian soccer rather than the fact that Brazil has stopped dominating the game like they used to in 70s -80s.
In business as in real life there will always be the idealists, the pragmatists and the super star. The idealists would prefer doing things the right way, regardless of results. But the pragmatist believes that winning is all that matters. Business is not a duel or a clash among gladiators where people fight for honor. You may fight the good fight and bask in your glory in the arena, but if you die in your next fight in the amphitheater with your saved glory, its all rather short-lived. In the end result counts. It’s the rare super performer however who somehow makes winning with style easy and convincing. He is that rare spark, that rare Usain Bolt whose showmanship matches his lightning fast and consistent performance.
You just got to figure out, which one are you or which one you target to please. Because not everyone is Usain Bolt.