This past February, as you may have known, the Seattle Seahawks played the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLIX at Metlife Stadium. I, being from New Jersey, and not wanting to pass up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, found a way to get tickets to this game. As I sat next to my brother and watched the Seahawks score touchdown after touchdown in their 43-8 rout of the Broncos, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How did they become so good?”. The Seahawks were a well oiled machine, on both offense and defense. It was one of the most lopsided super bowls in recent history. However, if a casual football fan was asked why these Seahawks played as well as they did, not many people would know. Their team is not star-studded; there are probably only three players that non-football followers could point out, even after the Super Bowl. So why and how could they be this good? Could it possibly be just good fortune?
In Machiavelli’s The Prince, he elaborates on the impact of fortune on a leader’s success. He believes that “Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions, but that she still allows us to direct the other half”. He also says that those who want good fortune, go out and create their own, by constantly putting in effort and anticipating fortuna’s next move. Every year, hundreds of college football athletes are drafted into the National Football Association via the NFL Draft. It is no telling which players will succeed in the NFL, and those who will become “busts”, or failures. The Seahawks, one could argue, are either very good, or very fortunate while drafting players. Three of their best players were drafted fairly late in the NFL Draft. Russell Wilson, their star quarterback was drafted 75th overall, Kam Chancellor, the hard-hitting safety was drafted 133rd overall, and the flamboyantly confident cornerback Richard Sherman (made famous for this postgame interview), was drafted 154th overall.
Machiavelli explains that fortuna accounts for half of a person’s life, while the other half is made by the person. Also, he describes that in times of peace, a good leader must be actively pursuing every opportunity to better prepare his people for the future. John Schneider, the Seahawks General Manager, has done just this. Early in the 2010 season, he traded for running back Marshawn Lynch, who has been one of the team’s best players since his acquisition.
The Seahawks also got very lucky in their drafting of these players. One may say “Oh, they draft very well”, but in truth, there was probably a reason these players were drafted so low. These players had less talent than others, but the difference is they worked hard and got better for the good of the team. In The Prince, Machiavelli elaborates on good counsels, and how the ones that work best are the ones that work hard and are loyal to the kingdom. This counsel will always do what is best for the principality, and not for themselves. Much like these Seahawks players, they work the hardest of any team in order to bring their team to glory.
Now I’m not saying that sports are all about luck, or all about fortune, but I am saying fortune and hard work both play a role. Not every team has two 5th round picks become superstars for their team. Not every team is lucky to be blessed with the talent the Seahawks have chosen and been given. Their combination of hard work and good fortune has put the Seahawks kingdom in a time of peace, as Machiavelli would put it. H0wever, this season Seattle has only four wins and three losses, an average record at best.
Maybe, their fortune has started running out.