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Dallas Duh: Superbowl Woes Offer Life/Money Lessons

Isn't it curious that following a spectacular Superbowl battle on the field the talk since the game almost universally has been about melting ice bombs, starlets who bomb, and fans that would gladly bomb NFL headquarters?

The off-field woes in Dallas were that bad. Ice falling from the roof injured some. Christina Aguilera forgot the lyrics to the National Anthem. Some paying fans had no seats, and getting into the place was a two-hour ordeal for almost everyone.

I likely wouldn't be writing on this subject if I hadn't experienced it first-hand. But at least I flew home with five Superbowl lessons in money and life, which I'll share with my kids one way or another:

· Big opportunities are rare Young people typically don't think in terms of limits. But all of us get only so many chances in life; squandering them because we weren't prepared is a huge miss. The fiasco in Dallas puts a damper on the city's chances of getting another Superbowl soon. The problems may sway fan sentiment toward the players in coming labor talks, giving the players an edge that could cost owners a bundle. I'm going to remind my teen kids more often that they won't always get a second chance, especially when it comes to something like an interview for college or a great job -- and that they will never, ever regret being prepared the way the NFL must regret being unprepared in Dallas.

· Never bet the farm The Dallas papers were filled with stories of small businesses that had invested heavily in anticipation of large crowds swarming their stores, eateries and parking lots. Poor weather and countless flight cancellations kept crowds sparse (and snug inside their hotels) much of the week. Businesses that over leveraged to try to make a killing will pay the ultimate price. (Note: these businesses weren't just trying to seize opportunity; they were gambling everything. There's a difference.) I ask my kids always to consider the downside in every choice they make.

· Your personal brand is your most valuable asset A wise editor once told me that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy one. We all need to take care of the way people perceive us. It can't be good for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' brand that an exasperated crowd snaking through a two-hour entrance while some fans jumped the fence and no officials were around to keep order started chanting, "Jerry Sucks." I tell my kids that a good reference has to be earned -- and that without one they may never get the chance to prove what they can do.

· Know where your bread gets buttered Without happy fans there is no NFL. Okay, the fans aren't going away because of anything that happened in Dallas. I get that. But it could be the start of a slow erosion of affection, given how expensive it is to be a fan these days and given that the coming labor dispute could further foul the air. In a more immediate sense, think of the economic impact of 103,000 people waiting in a two-hour line when they could be inside eating $8 hot dogs and drinking $10 beers. The concessions end of the Superbowl had to be disappointing. I advise my kids in college to take care of their grades, and if they do that they can probably get away with a few things. That's how their bread gets buttered.

· A great product overcomes a lot of stumbles If you're selling umbrellas in the rain you're going to do well. Fortunately for the NFL, it has a great product. A hard-fought 31-25 finish in the Superbowl (and soaring TV ratings) underscores the point. So if you're really good at generating big ideas like, say, Steve Jobs, you can afford to ruffle a few feathers like, say, Steve Jobs. I challenge my kids to find their passion and become great at it. They should experiment and maybe switch majors. I want them to intern often and volunteer at something. I'm not a huge fan of gap years but I believe they make sense for a kid who isn't ready for college. It's more important for a young person to discover what they like and get good at it than it is for them to stay on schedule and end up muddling through a so-so career and life.

This might seem like a lot of reflection from a football game. Then again, I had hours to think about it.

Photo courtesy Bank of Dad
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