A Slam Dunk Lesson on Trust

February 9, 2008 at 11:42 pm 2 comments

College Park, Maryland; January 16, 2008 fans

Maryland Terrapin fans had a lot to cheer about this week.  No, I’m not talking about last Saturday’s upset of #1 North Carolina on the Tar Heels home turf.  Another shocking victory delighted the 15,000 plus fans during their game against Wake Forest last Tuesday.  I had the great fortune of witnessing this historic event.  Ironically, it happened when both teams were in their locker rooms at half-time. During the break, fans experienced the now typical, parade of carnival-type contests designed to delight the student body while relentlessly promoting products. 

For example:

The Papa John’s Pick-the-Prize-in-the-Pizza-Box Contest.

The Pepsi One Half-Time, Half-Court Challenge.

The Chevy Chase Bank Spot-the-Most-Ridiculous-Looking-Fan-Scan.

You get the idea.

While most people were settling back into their seats, the PA announcer introduced student contestants for the Pep Boys Fan Challenge. These two young men were competing for a year of free windshield washer fluid.  I couldn’t make this stuff up!  Regardless of where you sat that night, any fan could tell that both competitors had enjoyed their share of super sized Pepsi’s and grande nacho cheese tortillas.

The winning contestant would need to complete a “speed drill”.  The goal?  Dribble the ball from under one basket to the foul-line and back, then to the half-court line and back, then to the other foul-line and back, and finally to the far base-line before finishing with a successful basket.

The labored breathing started for both men as soon as they hit the first foul-line.  As they reached the half-court line, one appeared to glance upward to see if an oxygen mask would mercifully drop from the Jumbotron.  As they headed for the final turn, one warrior had gained, what they call in football, separation, from the other – nearly the full length of the court.

At this point, fans started to cheer.  Not for the apparent victor, but to support the guy who was grasping onto hope…just to finish.

Then it happened. 

The contestant who was gliding to an easy victory slowed down about eight feet in front of the basket, got down on all fours, and waited for his competitor, a complete stranger, to approach.  As the athletically-challenged straggler huffed and puffed his way toward his competitor, he saw the offering of a human trampoline in front of the basket.  Hands and knees now firmly planted on the hardwood floor, the first contestant pointed up to his own back.

The anticipation and noise level escalated as he neared with slow motion speed.  Without breaking stride, the newly anointed crowd-darling picked up steam, took a final dribble, jumped on the back of the first contestant and slam dunked the ball to an erupting Comcast Center crowd.




Both men hugged and held each other’s hand in the air in victory as the video camera sent their image to the arena mega-screens.  The Terps went on to win the basketball game; but, these men were the real victors that night.

So what’s the lesson for us?

By humbling ourselves and not seeking the spotlight, we build trust. 

By giving credit instead of taking it ourselves (especially when we can), we build trust. 

By doing what is unexpected, unnecessary and unselfish, we build trust; capturing the hearts of everyone in our arena.  The one-year supply of windshield washer fluid is just a bonus.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

The Invisible Wall of Distrust The Loyalty Chasm

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charles H. Green  |  February 19, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Wow. What a great story, and as you point out, a great metaphor. And you’re right, the windshield washer fluid (or whatever the product in question) really is just the side effect. The real prize is the relationship.

    Thanks for this fine post.

  • 2. Charles H. Green's Trust Matters  |  February 27, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Hip to Be Square at Roundball

    Last post I talked about a possible trend against cynicism. Well, when it rains, it pours. Mark Slatin tells us what happened at halftime at a recent Maryland Terrapins vs. Wake Forest basketball game. Ill just let Mark tell this story in his words:…


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