Yesterday I read this wonderful recap of the 1967 “Ice Bowl” game in Green Bay, in which the Packers beat the Cowboys with a touchdown in the closing moments of an NFL Championship Game played in temperatures even colder than we’ve had this week.

This passage, a remembrance by Packers right guard Jerry Kramer, really struck me:

It’s really an amazing thing, that final drive. We had not had much success before that. Something turned on inside of us and all of a sudden everybody is doing their job and we’re moving down the field. I’ve wondered for years how to define and explain that. I use the analogy of the lady lifting a car off her baby. It’s impossible. It can’t happen. But something happens in her body and her mind. She has to lift that car to save her baby and somehow she does it.

It reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago about the 1984 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey game. In it, writing about the US victory, I said their win was impossible, too:

A year or two ago I watched a replay of the whole game. What I took away is that, logically, there is no way on earth the US team could have won that game. They were outskated, outmaneuvered, and generally outclassed by the Soviets, who were an obviously better team. But it was the pros from the USSR who were the ones outscored in the end.

My take on it was that the difference was “heart” – the will to win. I still think that’s a good perspective.

Even so, reading about the differences between the Packers and Cowboys teams of 1967 gave me another perspective. In one of Kramer’s other observations in the article, he says:

I don’t think it was the field. It was their mistakes that made the difference. They were a damned good team but they were an inexperienced team playing an experienced team.

In 1967, the Packers had been a winning team for several years. The Cowboys were just beginning to become one. Even if the skills of the teams were evenly matched, there was a stark difference in experience, to Kramer’s point – basic experience in flawless execution, plus experience with the field conditions, where Green Bay had a tremendous advantage.

In 1984, it was a different story. The USSR had huge advantages over the US in both playing experience and skills. But US Coach Herb Brooks foresaw those advantages (hence my use of his quote, “Gentlemen, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone”) and, to offset them, made sure his team was far and away the best-conditioned one on the ice. At the end of the game, the Soviets were unable to muster the reserves for the efforts it would have taken to wrest the lead away from the Americans.

I believe the will to win made a difference in both these historic games. And I believe, too, that preparation was a key element in both.

So how do you prepare? How do you get ready to win your “championship game” – be it in relationships, in health, in wealth, or in work?