Last Friday night, Oct. 29, saw my oldest son and I at a sports bar in Du Pont Circle, Washington, DC. I had to visit Rafael, since he’d been working overseas for the previous 4 months. And as motherhood goes, I was missing him badly.
At the bar, they were showing game 7 of the World Series, and right next to it another screen of the Blackhawks. Thankfully my 2 glasses of Baileys, got me through the Hawks 3-0 loss to the Hurricanes.
Then Ari, son #2, sent us David Haugh’s article from the day before, “Forte Playing a Dangerous Game.” Haugh's 2nd paragraph began with “Forgive me for not joining the Occupy Halas Hall movement….” WHOA! Did Haugh say that?
I was stunned: this was the exact title from my ChicagoNow blog I published on October 16. After laughing some 4 letter words from deep in ones gut, my sons both said I needed to email Haugh about this. So Rafael composed a short, to-the-point email to Haugh:
‘Nice article on Forte. Next time you quote my article, gimme a link at least :) "
And then, suddenly I got a response! 11:30 pm DC time. Wow - We exchanged a few emails, with Haugh saying he had not read my article and apologized (even though I tweeted him the article). Frankly, that was so kind of him, very thoughtful, and as one would say: a real gentleman
I said "sorry" to assume he’d read it, given that he gets thousands of tweets and emails every second of the day. And I finished by just telling him I write theses blogs for fun, integrating politics, psychology, and sports - and that they’re more fun to write than the academic publication route that my career has involved.
So – thank you David Haugh for enlightening me on the ins and outs of the business world of the NFL, and that Forte and his agent were offered $14 million in guarantees, and an average salary of $6 million – and turned it down. You know your business and report it as such, with your editorial slant.
But my business is Clinical Social Work, covering a variety of topics, e.g., Mental Health, Psychotherapy, Depression, Anxiety,Psychotic Disorders, etc. Yet in this instance, it's about Organizational Behavior.
It’s just this simple: Ownership & Management set the tone of “the organization.” They drive the culture of any group or workplace setting. They define the job descriptions, relationships, and expected behaviors of everyone associated with that organization. For all of you who have ever worked for someone else, you know what I’m talking about.
What’s it like to have a boss who treats you well, who gets to know you, who asks how you and/or your family are doing, who asks your opinion about your job? What about the supervisor who allows your input into your day to day responsibilities, or gives you a bonus for a job well done at the end of the year?
These are part of what is called a “bottom up” approach to management. The owners and top management purposely strive to get YOUR feedback, and know what life is like for the “worker bees” – those on the “bottom or mid levels” of the hive.
An example would be Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. Who could forget Jeff Saturday, lineman of the Indianapolis Colts, hugging Kraft on 7-26-11, stating that “without him, this deal (NFL-CBA) does not get done.”
Bob Ley, in an Outside the Lines segment, reported that Kraft, and his wife, Myrna, who had died from cancer just 6 days before on 7-20-11, were both constant figures in the locker room of the Patriots during practice and pre-game suit-ups.
Ley tells us that Myrna would walk around to every player, asking how he was doing, how was his family, his children, his parents, and both she and Kraft would take a personal interest in the lives of everyone connected with the organization.
At the time Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994, they were considered one of the least valuable franchises, nearly sold to an owner ready to move the team to St. Louis. Kraft would hear nothing of it, and the Boston fans showed their appreciation by purchasing 6000 season tickets. Since his ownership, they have been in the playoffs twelve times and won 3 Super Bowls. Coincidence?
The Bears: Virginia McCaskey & Jerry Angelo. What type of culture and management style would you characterize for them? In reference to Matt Forte, they would be called, “top down,” in that they make all the decisions, they don’t necessarily care to listen to the workers’ (players) input, nor care about their welfare, have little respect for any thoughts or ideas the workers may “bring to the table,” and essentially enforce compliance.
Organizational behavior tells us that when a hard-working, well-liked team player is obviously under-valued, disrespected, and under-paid, a top-down management style can negatively impact the attitudes and experiences of the rest of the team players. Conversations around those water coolers are not exactly for prime time.
Why else would Urlacher call Forte “the best player in the league right now,” with 1089 yrds from scrimmage this season, first in NFL? Why else would the Bears Post Game Live Comcast Analysts say it every week, along with fans’ signs at every game saying, “PAY THE MAN!”
When asked by Jim Rome about this situation, Forte stated that, “Everybody who is doing anything, no matter what you’re doing, if you’re working hard and you’re doing an exceptional job, and you want your boss to notice that…. but …(not) compensate you for what you’re doing…..it makes you feel undervalued.”
When Rome asked Ray Rotto, the Sportscaster of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, what he thought of how Forte was being treated, Rotto responded by saying, “They …(The Bears Organization)… are squeezing his shoes. This is what the Bears traditionally do. This is who they are and what they do. It’s the wrong message to do….(and)… the wrong thing to do for the fans.”
Which apparently confirms a 2009 Yahoo! Sports article listing McCaskey as the third worst owner in the NFL, stating "[T]hey get less for what they’ve got than any team in our league."
Strictly speaking from a business perspective, Haugh is right- on. Forte will be franchised for 2 years, and is risking a career ending injury every play he is on the field. Should he have taken the alleged offer? I wasn't there. But that’s the business world of the NFL, period. Just ask Chris Harris and Olin Kruetz.
So tell me, David, why IS Forte playing his heart out? It’s not for Virginia, nor Jerry, nor Lovie, nor Martz. Maybe it’s for his team. Maybe it’s for us fans. Maybe it’s for his own work ethic, identity, self - respect and values. Maybe he's hoping a contract would get done sooner than later.
Or maybe it’s called "For The Love of the Game." And it’s that Love that may cost him. Because if it does, let’s see what Lovie will say then. Because Virginia and Jerry will be nowhere to be found, hiding up Top in their Top-down thinking. For the love of THEIR game. Not ours.