We lost three important sports figures over the past week. Each was hugely important in their sport and their lives provide significant lessons for the compliance professional and business executive. Finally, I am thrilled to announce another expansion of the Compliance Podcast Network.
The first loss was the Formula One driver, Niki Lauda. According to his New York Times(NYT) obituary, Lauda, an “Austrian racecar driver who won three world championships in Formula One, the sport’s highest level of international competition, and was regarded as one of the greatest racing drivers of all time, died on Monday in Zurich. He was 70 at the time of his death.” Lauda won 25 Grand Prix races and the Formula One world driving championships in 1975, 1977 and 1984.
He is most remembered for a spectacular crash in 1976 at the German Grand Prix. “It had rained, and he hit a slippery patch at 140 miles per hour. He spun out, broke through a restraining fence, which snagged and tore away his helmet, then hit an embankment and bounced back onto the track, where he was hit by several following cars. His ruptured fuel tank burst into flames, which engulfed him in the cockpit.” Several drivers stopped to save him by pulling from the burning wreckage. He sustained “severe burns of the face, head and hands, a concussion, a broken collarbone and other fractures. His right ear was badly burned. Noxious smoke and gases from the car’s burning interior seared his lungs. He was taken to a hospital in a coma, then to a burn center, seemingly near death” and was given the Last Rites.
Yet he recovered and underwent a series of excruciatingly painful skin grafts and surgeries. He returned to Grand Prix racing later that year. The next year he won his second driving championship. The lessons from Lauder are clear. That you can overcome almost any obstacle if you persist. Moreover, Lauder led the efforts to make racing safer, he “championed safer racecar and track designs, and urged tighter controls over driving conditions and rules governing race organizers.” The current safety record at Formula One can be drawn directly back to Niki Lauda and his horrific crash.
The second sports figure we recently lost was Bart Starr. Before there was Tom Brady, there was Bart Starr. Starr won 5 National Football League (NFL) titles with the Green Bay Packers, in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. The final two were after the NFL merged with the American Football League (AFL) to create the Super Bowl so the Packers also won Super Bowls I and II. According to his NYTobituary, Starr “was named the league’s most valuable player in 1966 and received the same honor in Super Bowls I and II. He was selected to the Pro Bowl four times… He led the N.F.L. in that crucial category in three seasons and, on average, for all of the 1960s — even though his rival Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts was often viewed as better. Starr set career records for completion percentage, 57.4, and consecutive passes without an interception, 294.”
Starr was the consummate professional. He led teams coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, executing the master coach’s game plan each week. The NYT quoted author Steve Wright, “The dirty little secret of those days was that during the week it was Lombardi’s team, but on Sunday it was really Starr’s team.” Starr never stopped learning and never stopped being a gentleman leader. Indeed, “the annual N.F.L. award given to a player, and voted on by players, for outstanding character and leadership on and off the field is called the Bart Starr Award.” My sense is that Starr would have made a great compliance professional, calling the plays on game day and letting others take the credit.
The final loss is someone who is famous for one of the greatest errors in all of baseball, for the moment was in a Game Six of the 1986 World Series when it appeared the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of breaking the (then) 69-year curse of the Bambino. According to Bill Buckner’s NYTobituary, “It was the bottom of the 10th inning at Shea Stadium in New York, and the Mets had scored two runs to tie the score, 5-5, with Ray Knight on second base. There were two outs, and outfielder Mookie Wilson came to the plate. With a full count, Wilson, batting left-handed, hit a slow bouncer up the first-base line off reliever Bob Stanley, and to the fans at Shea and in the television audience, it looked like an easy third out. All Buckner had to do was scoop it up and touch first base, and the Red Sox would have had another chance to come to the plate in the 11th and possibly win the title that their fans had craved for 68 years. It was not to be as the ball skipped between Buckner’s legs.” The Mets won Game Six and went on to win Game 7, consigning Boston and its fans to another 18 years of suffering.
Buckner had been a very good hitter during his career with the LA Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and then Boston, “registering a .300 batting average in seven seasons and amassing 2,715 hits and 174 home runs during his two decades in the major leagues.” Yet he will always be remembered for his gaffe. Boston fans forgave him and eventually embraced him as he returned to Fenway Park. Buckner “told The Boston Globe that his World Series error did not weigh too heavily on him. “There could be somebody in my shoes who would think that life sucks,” Buckner said. “I chose to look at it that life is great. You can make those choices. Everyone in life has things that don’t go according to plan.””
In yet another development in my continued attempt widen out my podcast network, The Compliance Podcast Networkis now found on C-Suite Radio. C-Suite Radio is the home to a library of weekly online shows featuring c-suite leaders, business executives, and entrepreneurs. Jeffery Hayzlett and his team have created one of the very top business podcast sites and I am thrilled to have partnered with C-Suite Radio in my continued effort to bring the top compliance, business ethics and corporate governance information to market in the podcast format. The Compliance Podcast Networkwill remain available on all current sites, the FCPA Compliance Report, iTunes,JDSupra, Megaphone, YouTube, Spotifyand Corporate Compliance Insights.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2019