I returned from walking our family dog last Monday night, and one of our kids called from the basement, “Dad, come down here! You have to see this!”
They were watching the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals football game, and for the next forty-five minutes, we watched as Damar Hamlin was resuscitated and transferred to the hospital. Then the game was canceled.
Following the story throughout the week, I was struck by Bengal’s coach Zac Taylor’s statement on Wednesday. “When I got over there, the first thing (Sean McDermott, the Bill’s head coach) said was, ‘I need to be at the hospital for Damar, and I shouldn’t be coaching this game.'”
It’s a short sentence that conveys so much.
I don’t want to sound inhumane, but let’s consider the context. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business. TV partners pay ridiculous amounts of money to broadcast their games. Millions of people were watching the game. The Bills were in the hunt for the number one seed. The Bengals are good, and the game’s outcome could determine playoff seeding.
And in the context of all that pressure, Sean McDermott was clear on his priority. Thankfully, the teams and the league followed suit.
At that moment, Sean McDermott was the kind of boss everyone wishes they had.
A boss who sees us first as human.
A boss who values our lives more than our production.
A boss who is willing to lay aside the important tasks for what is of utmost importance.
When a boss gets that right, people will respond.
In my previous career, people asked me what they should say when they went to the hospital or to the funeral home. I always gave the same advice, “People will not remember what you said. They will remember that you showed up and embraced them as human beings.”
And if I were an NFL player, I would love to play for Sean McDermott, even with all the Buffalo snow.