How Mystic Mac and Mighty Maria Delivered the Right Message

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Conor McGregor (left) and Maria Sharapova faced some significant setbacks in the past 72 hours. (Photos by Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today and Getty Images, respectively.)

Within the past 72 hours, two elite athletes seemingly at the top of their game suffered significant setbacks. However, it’s how they responded which has strangely enough, made them victorious.

On Saturday night, brash Irish mixed martial artist (some language NSFW), Conor McGregor, lost his first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight to Nate Diaz. McGregor is the 145lb champion, but stepped up two weight classes to fight a replacement opponent in Diaz for a non-title 170lb match. After predicting a first-round knockout of his opponent, McGregor instead lost in the second round to a submission.

Many rejoiced to see the trash talker finally taste defeat. However, McGregor won the post-fight PR test with not only his humble interview, but also this post on Instagram (some language NSFW). McGregor said he took a risk, it didn’t pay off, but he’ll learn from it and come back stronger. No excuses, no complaints; just what he learned and how he’ll get better.

Then, just this morning (March 8), tennis superstar Maria Sharapova was going to have a major announcement. Her news? She failed a drug test at the Australian Open. A drug she had been using for 10 years had become, as of just 68 days ago, illegal.

Rather than wait for news services to pick up the failed drug test and have pundits weigh in before she said anything, Sharapova did the best thing she could: Got out in front of the news, controlled the message, and positioned herself to be the news source. While she has been put on immediate suspension and has already lost some sponsors, she accepted responsibility and outlined what had happened (she failed to read an email that outlined the drug in question as now illegal).

Media often relish the narrative of a rise and fall of a prominent figure, whether it be a celebrity or an athlete. However, what they, and our culture, love even more, is the rise, fall, and comeback of a celebrity or athlete. After all, we are a land of second chances, just as long as you do it the right way (See pitcher Andy Petite admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs vs. Rafael Palmeiro vehemently denying it, only to be caught using them).

I predict that both McGregor and Sharapova will be great comeback stories. They’re already off to a great start by winning the initial PR battle by accepting three important things:

  • Accepted Responsibility: Neither made excuses; they took ownership of their error and were upfront and honest about the respective situations. It shows the public they recognize what happened, do not pass the blame, and own up to the shortfalls.
  • Accepted the Punishment: They realize they made mistakes, understood the magnitude of them, and realized the consequences for their actions.
  • Accepted the Challenge: McGregor sees how this gives fuel to all of his detractors and makes some of his trash talk now seem silly. Sharapova understands this may mean a two-year ban and lost sponsorship dollars. However, both vowed to learn from these events (McGregor says you either win or you learn), and admitted they will be better professionals for it.

While you or I may never hoist a UFC title belt or a Wimbledon trophy above our heads, if we find ourselves in a situation where things come up short, we can follow in McGregor’s and Sharpova’s footsteps with similar responses to aid the road to recovery.


How the Buckeyes Beat the Odds

Ohio State

On Monday night, Jan. 12, The Ohio State University won its eighth college football national championship with a resounding 22-point victory over the Oregon Ducks. But what makes the victory – and Ohio State’s season – even more impressive is how the team rebounded from obstacles stacked against them to go on one of the most impressive three-game stretches in college football history and beat the odds – literally.

In August, the team lost its starting quarterback to injury for the season. Their odds as one of the favorites to win the title dropped to 50-1.In September, the Buckeyes were bounced, at home, by a very mediocre Virginia Tech 35-21. Ohio State’s title hopes seemed to take a death blow after that loss and their title odds plummeted to 100-1. In late November they lost their backup quarterback to a leg injury. Then this happened:

  • Starting their third-string quarterback in the Big 10 championship game, they were 4-point underdogs to Wisconsin. They proceed to beat the Badgers 59-0. (Read that again.)
  • Going into the first College Football Playoff (which many said they should not have been selected), they were a 9-point underdog against Alabama. They beat the SEC Champions 42-35.
  • Making it into the national championship game, Ohio State was a 7-point underdog to Oregon. They beat the Pac-12 Champions by multiples of 11 (42-20). They now open the 2015 season as the favorite to repeat next year.

So what can the casual fan and the common company learn about what propelled the Buckeyes through this adversity? These 3 things:

  • Numbers Can Predict Outcomes; They Cannot Measure Pride: Given the betting odds against the team all season it would be easy to fold. However, the team believed in their individual abilities and the collective team. Thus, while the odds may not have been in their favor, their determination to persevere was immeasurable.
  • Focusing on the Past Blurs Your Vision of the Present: Two lost quarterbacks and a bad loss at home would be enough for most teams to not only dwell on, but to knock them completely off track. But the Buckeyes kept looking forward, kept their faith in the “next man up,” and accomplished each task at hand, which was simply winning the next game.
  • Internal Belief Supersedes External Opinions: Many questioned why the Buckeyes were even in the playoffs when other contenders had seemingly stronger arguments. (Read more on how the first selection could have gone smoother.) Despite the doubters, Ohio State did the only thing that could silence the critics: produce undisputable results in decisive fashion.