Momentum or Inertia: Which Did the Super Bowl Teams Each Have?

Was the Rams-Patriots Super Bowl LIII a game of momentum or inertia?Football sitting on a field

Inertia: “property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force”

The L.A. Rams had a lot of inertia. Things kept going the same way throughout the game with similar results. The team ended the game with 12 drives, 9 penalties, 0 touchdowns. Its punter kicked it away nine times for 417 yards. Total net yardage: 260. (But you knew that, Rams fans.)

Momentum: “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events”

The New England Patriots, by contrast, had the momentum. The team’s time possession was 33:10, six minutes longer than the Rams, while it gained 22 first downs and was flagged for just three penalties. Of course, it won a close, low-scoring game, 13-3.

Is that one reason, by the way, that most of America outside Rhode Island and Massachusetts don’t like the Patriots? I don’t, that’s for sure. (I’m partial to America’s team, the Cowboys, of course.) But when I stop gritting my teeth and sit back, I realize they’re simply making adjustments to change inertia into momentum.

An insurance workflow is like a game performance. Both require:

  • A game plan
  • Adjustments (before/at/after half time)
  • Continuous effort and re-effort

In independent agencies and other firms in the distribution channel, we all experience inertia. For example, we might start a marketing/quoting process with the same bundle of papers (yes, those sheets made from trees and written on with pens/pencils) for just about every account or risk.

Then there’s momentum, and we’ve all had it. For example, insurance firms saved millions of dollars, possibly billions, when we switched from mailing correspondence to faxing it, and then again when we switched from overnight delivery to email for vital paperwork.

Sometimes it takes an external nudge or blow to reveal inertia. Sears was a 113-year-old company when Home Depot bumped it out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1999. It’s ridden inertia a long time: It was the biggest U.S. retailer in 1989 and the 31st-largest in 2018.

You get the point. Inertia is risky. Momentum is rewarding.

Driven by muscle memory, inertia gives us the ability to do a familiar thing.

Driven by rethinking and changing, momentum engages people to be better, faster, stronger.

When you remember the 2019 Super Bowl, use what happened to your advantage – and to create momentum in place of inertia.


Next time: More about how inertia can lead to positive change.