The question I get asked most often—other than questions about my name—is about the phrase “The hay’s in the barn.”
The start of a new football season, understandably, always brings up the question.
I started to use the phrase several years ago during the broadcast near the end of a Ravens game after the play that seals a win. The first time I used the phrase, I didn’t even realize I said it, but so many people said it back to me through the course of the next week that I realized it resonated with people. It stuck.
The phrase comes from my college football coach Phil Albert. In the early 80’s I played tight end on Towson University’s team. I use the word “play” lightly since I didn’t play in games very often. Near the end of each practice, Coach Albert would say, “The hay’s in the barn.” He meant all the hard work was done. We had done what we set out to do. It signalled completion.
Ironically, the only time I ever got into games was when the hay was already in the barn!
I love the phrase because it doesn’t merely speak to the outcome. Yes, it means winning, but it also speaks to the amount of work it took to get there. It speaks to the journey, not just the destination. Sometimes, like in Super Bowl 47, the hay doesn’t get in the barn until the final second comes off the clock.
Other times, the hay’s in the barn with several minutes left on the clock. And there are those days when the hay never quite gets in the barn. That’s what makes it so special.
There are no guarantees at the start of the game—or any journey, any endeavor for that matter—that you’ll finish, that you’ll win. But when you do the sweetness of the moment comes not only from putting the hay in the barn but from all the work it took to get it there.
Years ago I trademarked the phrase. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but I want it to be something that reminds people of that powerful sense of accomplishment that connects vision, work, and good fortune.
Coach Albert always had a knack for talking about much bigger things in life when he was talking about football. “The hay’s in the barn,” has the same quality. Sure it comes at the end of a football game, but it means more than just one team beat another. It means you did what you needed to do in order to accomplish your goal, to reach your objective, to get to your destination.
And once you reach that destination the work starts again to accomplish a new goal, reach a new objective, get to a new destination. When you get there, you’ll pause for a sweet sliver of time, exhale, and enjoy the simple please of knowing, “the hay’s in the barn.”