The Obligatory Super Bowl Metaphor

When the lights first went out in the Super Bowl, I thought, "Now here is a great, unintended advertisement for sustainable energy." I instantly thought about making it into a metaphor of standardization. However, another blogger has done that more successfully and succinctly than I would have.

But I think it's interesting to see what happened in the moment. The Ravens looked upset. They seemed to internalize a self-fulfilling prophecy that the power outage would be a game-changer (and it nearly was. Indeed, the 49ers were five yards and two missed holding calls away from a victory). The normally chill John Harbaugh screamed at every available official.

Despite the fact that his team still had access to technology and resources, he used the time to complain bitterly and try to fight against a system that he could not control. Meanwhile, the smug-looking man in the suit calmly dismissed his rant and reassured "another ten minutes."

I contrast this to what we saw on the opposite side. The 49ers should have stared at the scoreboard and realized it was impossible. Instead, Jim Harbaugh pulled out a clipboard and talked with Colin Kaepernick about play adjustments. Then he grabbed a football and began to play catch. While the pundits questioned whether he should go to Alex Smith, the former quarterback demonstrated his trust in the rookie quarterback.

Yes, it was simply a warm-up to keep his quarterback fresh. But it was also a reassurance. It was a game of catch. It was the rare moment in the game where Jim Harbaugh was actually smiling.

And so it has me thinking about a broken system. There's a time and a place to complain about technology failures (all of a sudden slow internet doesn't seem like a big deal) or about bad infrastructure or fire drills that interrupt great lessons. We need advocacy.

However, in the midst of its failure, I wonder if the best thing we can do is find a way to play catch.
John Spencer

Professor. Maker. Speaker.
I want to see schools unleash the creative potential in all teachers to transform classrooms into bastions of creativity and wonder. Read more →
Email me at john@educationrethink.com for speaking inquiries on design thinking and creativity.


  1. Two missed holding calls?

    Just own it. They lost because they didn't play well all game. That rookie quarterback you mention failed big time when he was in the red zone. Just one more red zone conversion and they would have won.

    1. Colin Kaepernick played well. He did everything he needed to do. The defense and special teams were shaky. The one interception he threw was actually pretty understandable.

  2. There was only one holding call. The one in the endzone on the safety would have resulted in a safety anyway.

    But, the message in your post is spot on, there's a lot we feel is broken about the system, but we still need to find a way to work with what we have and make the best of it.

    1. I was thinking of the holding and offsides not called on second down, actually. But I'm also admittedly bitter about it. I had to throw it in there ;)

      Thanks for the kind words, though. I'm going to try and play catch today.

  3. The 49ers got away with a late holding call against the Falcons.


    But I was rooting for you anyway. :-)

  4. You mention advocacy here. I am ready. I have this desire to shout from the rooftops that we need more to stand up and say that what is happening to our public schools is akin to standing on the deck of the Titanic playing the cello while the entire ship sinks. How? How can we get more voices from the 'inside' - NOT anymore talking heads or 'experts' who have never stepped foot in a classroom, but those in the trenches to stand up and say what it is that needs to be said. (Cue John Mayer) I have just started looking into ways to go talk to representatives. My goal would be to speak before Congress. How can we make this happen?

    1. I'm still not sure how to make that happen, but it needs to.


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