Planning For… The Contractually Obligated Awkwardness


At the end of Superbowl 5, Dallas Cowboy linebacker Chuck Howley drove off the field in a brand new car.

Ever since that day Superbowl MVPs have been treated to a string of incentives including cash, usually $5,000, and vacations, typically to a Walt Disney park.  The fêteing of the games Most Valuable Player has become something of a Superbowl tradition.  Who can forget hearing Joe Montana announce, during the 49’ers moment of ultimate victory, that he was on his way to Disneyland?

All of that tradition was derailed this Sunday when Eli Manning, the Giant’s Quarterback and deserving MVP, was faced with a proposition like no other MVP has.

He won a car that he isn’t allowed to drive.

As the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 45, Eli Manning was awarded a Chevy Corvette.  At the end of the game, the car was driven onto the field and parked next to the celebration Dais, where the Super Bowl MVP would be announced, interviewed, and be photographed driving off in his trophy car.

Everyone was waiting in anticipation for the presentation.

Determining the MVP of the Superbowl can be a bit of a chore;  80% of the vote is split among 16 sportswriters, while the remaining 20% belongs to the fans.   Upon completion of the game, there is a period of time where the votes are tallied, the sponsors are informed, and then the broadcasters make their pronouncement to the teams and players.

If the game is close, and many players have made significant contributions, the result can take some time to generate.  It becomes a pretty big reveal.

This year’s reveal was made by NBC’s Dan Patrick.  His acknowledgement of Eli Manning was going swimmingly until it came time for the presentation of  the Corvette.  For about 15 strange and awkward seconds, Eli didn’t do much.

He wasn’t excited.

He didn’t celebrate.

He didn’t say thank you.

He just tried to get away.

Dan Patrick insisted that Eli take the keys, “Eli… Eli… the keys… You can’t drive the car without the keys Eli.”

Eli eventually relented, grabbed the keys, and issued a quiet thank you before making his way to the back of the crowded platform.

Eli wasn’t being ungrateful.  What Dan Patrick and most of America didn’t know is that Eli Manning has an endorsement deal with Toyota.  He isn’t to be photographed or broadcast  making an endorsement of vehicles other than Toyotas.

In a perfect storm of financial and athletic weirdness, the only person on the field who wasn’t allowed to drive the Corvette, became its owner on live T.V.

I realized then that while we make plans for handling disaster, we don’t make plans for how to handle success.

It’s obvious that well-organized contingency strategies can mitigate a failure, but it’s not as clear that we also need contingencies for when we encounter unexpected levels of success.  This was the kind of awkwardness that could have been avoided by planning for the best.

While Chevrolet clearly hadn’t thought through what might happen Eli won the award, neither had the Quarterback.

Imagine what might have happened if Eli had thanked Chevrolet and announced that he would be auctioning the corvette, donating the money to charity?  Maybe he could give the car to an “injured brother” who’s about to get laid off?

I’m not trying to tell Eli what to do with his things, but I am saying that the situation could have been less awkward had he considered what he might do if he were to be named the game’s MVP.

Contrary to popular belief, planning for success isn’t prideful, it’s responsible.

Imagine what Eli’s life would be like if his goals only included winning 2 Superbowls and 2 Superbowl MVP’s?  He accomplished these things in the past 4 years, leaving him with nothing left to do for the rest of his life.  We would think that he was foolish if he didn’t have a plan for “after” his NFL success.

Not having a plan for what to do “next” is actually what causes us to rest on our laurels, eventually slipping into mediocrity.

The Bible tells a story about a prideful man who was successful beyond imagination.  He farmed so much grain that he had to build bigger and bigger barns to store it in.  After completion of the barns he went to bed, ready to begin his life of retirement… only to die in his sleep.

With barns full of grain.

That went to somebody else.

Because he was greedy and prideful.

Pride isn’t planning for success, it’s planning to rest on your treasures while others suffer.  Imagine what could have happened if the farmer had made a plan to distribute the grain on behalf of hungry people?  What if he re-invested grain sale profits into the economy of his community?

I don’t get the feeling that Eli Manning is a prideful or greedy jerk.  I do think that he, like many of us, got caught off guard by some unexpected benefits of success, and we accidentally got to see the contractually obligated awkwardness.

What if your dreams came true?

Have you made plans for “after”?

Where would you go?

What would you do?

More importantly,

What kind of person will you be?

6 Responses to “Planning For… The Contractually Obligated Awkwardness”

  1. Leslie D. Martin February 8, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I will help Manning solve his problem. I’ll take it off his hands. (Just trying to be helpful).

  2. Jon February 8, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    You would look sweet in a Corvette!

    • Leslie D. Martin February 9, 2012 at 5:18 am #

      I’d get him to autograph it with a paint pen, sell it, then buy something practical. Or buy my dream car — a restored 1956 Chevy BelAir 4-Door.

      • Jon February 9, 2012 at 9:15 am #

        Beautiful Car… My brother had the four door in robin’s egg blue and white.

        • Leslie D. Martin February 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

          We had one that was turquoise and white. I think the ’56 4-door is probably the most beautiful car ever made.

  3. Jeff Patterson February 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    “What kind of person will you be[come]?” » More of who I am now, which is to say I better get planning on how to shape this character into maturity for the impending doom of success.

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