Defense wins championships – and other lessons Super Bowl XLVIII reminds us of


Despite the lopsided score of 43-8, with the Seattle Seahawks handily winning over the Denver Broncos, I thought Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s 48 if you can’t read Roman numerals) was a great game. I liked that the game was dominated by defense, but that’s just me. I am sure many people will disagree with me and tell me that it was a boring game, in particular those who bet on the Broncos, and most likely those who were stuck in New Jersey commuter traffic on the way to the venue.

The objective of American football, at its very essence, is very simple: get the ball over to your end zone, the other side of the playing field. What I think makes it difficult for many people to follow are the multiple rules, penalties, and the specific names of each position. In addition, the strategy part of the game – how the teams match their go-to plays against each other and how they adjust – can also get very complex.

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Nevertheless, Super Bowl XLVIII was proof of a very old yet enduring maxim:

Defense wins championships.


For a lot of sports, compared to offense, being on defense does not seem that glamorous. The statistics associated with offense – e.g., points, assists, total yards run, goal percentage – just sound way more emphatic and more bragging-rights worthy than defensive stats – blocks, points allowed, interceptions, and steals, just to name a few.

But defense is the name of the game because teams who can score better and more often than yours are more likely to exist. Yet how many teams can brag of a defense that is capable of matching up to, and stopping most offenses?

And because not everybody is born or can be made to be a scorer, it is important to remember that everyone has a role to play. Even if the name of your position doesn’t sound very intimidating (cornerback, offensive tackle, small forward, as examples), there is a reason it exists – because you have a certain role to fulfill and you have a contribution that is integral and necessary to the overall goal of the team: to win.

A team is ideally a collection of individuals with varying skills and abilities who are there to complement and supplement each other; they are there to form different parts of a machine that, though it may have it rough during start-up, can do great things once it becomes well-oiled.

If your team is composed of people who all want to be the top star, the alpha dog as an acquaintance put it, then obviously your team will go nowhere. I remember hearing a line from an animated show: “we don’t have star players, but we are the best!” In this regard, the whole is greater than the sum of all the parts. But the key to making the team work is for each member to know his role, to appreciate how it fits into the bigger overall scheme, and to perform it very well.

Speaking of the halftime show, this year featured Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP). Now I was half expecting Filipinos to come out and say “Bruno Mars is performing! Pinoys have made it to the Super Bowl! Woohoo proud to be Pinoy!” but I guess in the circles I frequent I heard almost nothing.

By the way, I was reminded after the game that #89 of the Seahawks, Doug Baldwin, apparently has Filipino blood. A friend of mine showed me a picture of Baldwin carrying the Filipino flag onto the field a few days after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, though he did carry it the red side up. But I remember Baldwin because he was one of those who scored a touchdown during the game.

And that’s a point I ultimately want to make: I can enjoy a sporting event even if it does not involve Filipinos – percentage ones or pure Pinoys – whatever the case may be. Consequently, that a player is Pinoy does not automatically confer greatness or great skill on him/her; ultimately, it’s his/her skill, practice, dedication, hard work, and abilities, and to a lesser extent showmanship, that do.

Are we missing out discussing anyone? Oh yeah, the coach, the man who puts the team together.

I don’t care who the coach is. You can’t win without great athletes, but you can lose with them. This is where coaching makes the difference.

Lou Holtz, quoted by John Maxwell in the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership


Seattle coach Pete Carroll won by sticking to the things that consistently made him win:

Carroll went with the date he brought to the prom, the best defense in football, a utilitarian offense that makes few big mistakes. He felt all along the Seahawks could put enough stress on Peyton Manning to unsettle him, to win this game with straight pressure and coverage, not with gimmicks. They didn’t have to sack the quarterback. They just needed to make his life very uncomfortable, which they did.

Denver coach John Fox, on the other hand, even if he had the best offense in the league up to that point, had found no answer to the Seahawks all-encompassing defense. For those who watched the game, it was not hard to see the frustration on Denver quarterback Peyton Manning’s face from the get-go.

In the end, as a friend of mine said, Seattle proved that they were hungrier, that they wanted it more. The result speaks for itself.


If you’re still with me at this point, you’ll notice that I haven’t discussed Filipino culture much in this article, nor have I really related the Super Bowl to Filipino society.

First off, Filipinos and championship team are rarely ever used in the same sentence to refer to each other.

Secondly, Filipinos can only dream of having a countryman in American sports leagues. Collectively, Filipinos know only one sport: basketball. But they just don’t have the height for it, no matter how much “heart” they claim to have. They will, quite simply, never measure up in a sport where success in the sport is dominantly determined by height.

It’s long been said that perhaps Filipinos should try their hand at football (soccer). However, it is inarguably more of a team game than basketball is, and the manok na pinugutan ng ulo na pinakawalan sa palaruan (headless chicken released onto the playing field) mindset that Filipinos like to employ in basketball will obviously not work as well in that game.

So let’s discuss a point: hypothetically, how do Filipinos tackle issues that require team efforts, like say, getting the country out of its current miserable state?

Filipinos want to be the lone star.

Filipinos place their own interests above everybody else’s.

Filipinos are more concerned about being in the spotlight than they are about performing their role well.

Filipinos are more concerned with “what’s in it for me?” instead of “how can I contribute to the greater good?”

Filipinos are more interested in “star quality” than they are with “high quality”.

Filipinos want quick results and generally have disdain for hard work.

Filipinos brag a lot, but ask them to back it up and usually they turn up hollow.

Filipinos are fond of doing, but not of thinking – a central thesis statement here in GRP.

Filipinos don’t value diversity.

Filipinos can’t take criticism and adversity very well.

Filipinos think that being Filipino confers on them an inherent special quality or greatness.

Filipinos choose their “coaches” very poorly.

So, given all these, do we expect the Filipino team to be championship material anytime soon?

Not likely. A lot of their teammates have simply given up on propping up the losing team and taken their fortunes to greener pastures.

They say that adversity brings a team together. The Philippines has had no shortage of “adversity”, so why hasn’t the team come together?

Just another one of those things that should make you go hmm…

4 Replies to “Defense wins championships – and other lessons Super Bowl XLVIII reminds us of”

  1. It’s no secret that my mantra is KSP is the root of all evil, NFL style football is the ultimate team sport. QB s can sometimes get too much attention but the real war will always be fought in the line of scrimmage. I doubt Pinoys can relate to players who do not accumulate stats since for them it’s always about pansin and not the actual work. Whenever the Detroit Pistons are good it’s always about team defense . Pinoys relate more to a Carmelo Anthony who much rather get 35 points and lose than get 19 points and win,.

  2. Pinoys are really not much of keen on being a team player, it will all boil down to the “me, me, me” attitude, be it being the hero or even if being the “dakilang talunan”.

    “There is no “I” in the word “TEAM”, but there is a “ME”….

    —-Dr. Gregory House

  3. They are still trying to figure out how to do it consistently together. They are at that age when someone says “be agressive!” they hear that “go for my shot!”. The maturity of basketball comes when you understand the we of the game over the me of the game. It does not mean you are always looking to score but you are trying for our score instead of my score. Not my shot but our shot. The teams that get that are the ones that cut down banners.

    Jay Bilas on
    ESPN SVP and Rusillo radio show Feb 14 2014

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