Last month, I watched an ESPN “30 for 30” on the Buffalo Bills. I’m admittedly not a big sports on TV guy, but this documentary sucked me in. It was both heartwrenching and inspiring. Beyond the bigger story of what happened to the Bills in the early ’90s (tldr; 4 Super Bowl appearances in a row with zero wins. Ouch.), there was one moment in the entire two-hour documentary that stood out to me more than anything else.
This moment is apparently one of the most famous Super Bowl moments in history, so my apologies to those of you who already know what’s coming. But here’s the scene. In the 1993 Super Bowl, the Bills are facing off against the Dallas Cowboys. This is the third year in a row that the Bills are in the Super Bowl, after losing the previous two years. Everyone on the team thought this was the year that they would win and finally get their Super Bowl ring, but they fell apart.
With only minutes left to play, the Bills are getting slaughtered, down by 35 points. In a strong defensive push, the Cowboys strip the Bills quarterback of the ball, and Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett picks up the fumbled football and starts running to the goal line. As Leon gets close to the inevitable touchdown, he slows down and starts to celebrate. Just before he crosses into the end zone, one of the Bills players, Don Beebe, comes out of nowhere and strips the ball from Leon. Here is the video that’s worth a quick watch.
After watching the show, I looked up the incident on Google, and most of the commentary focused on Leon’s mistake. (How could he start celebrating before he scored?!) While I think that’s a valuable lesson, what’s stuck with me hasn’t been Leon Lett’s mistake. It’s been Don Beebe’s success. The Bills may not have won the game, but Don won in that moment. His grit, commitment, pride, hustle, desire, hard work, determination, and focus make him truly inspirational.
Years later, when Don was interviewed about what happened, he said he didn’t think about whether the Bills were winning or losing at the time. He just knew he wasn’t going to let Leon score that touchdown. I love this! Don has the mentality of a humble, unrelenting champion.
This story isn’t intended to be some contrived “rah, rah” moment. I’m sharing it because I want to be more like Don Beebe. His story teaches a valuable lesson and should inspire each of us to take on his attitude and determination, regardless of whether we’re winning or losing. All companies, especially startups, are going to have lots of ups and downs as a business, but the one thing we can control is our attitude and how hard we push for success.
Let’s all be more like Don Beebe.