I got to bed around 2:00 am this morning, not because the kids were up sick (though that did factor in) and not because of insomnia or bed bugs. It was because I was so juiced-up over an unbelievable comeback win, against an offensive juggernaut, the Manning-led Denver Broncos around 1:00 am. In short, the New England Patriots came back to win, in overtime, after playing an atrocious first-half of football against a team that are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl (and still are). There are many story lines from the game, the return of Wes Welker (I still wish he was in NE), the freezing temperatures, the Brady vs. Manning question (It’s Brady). But I’m taking a wide-angle view and analyzing why this is so exciting and how sports impact our lives. What was it that made me watch that game so intently and move to the basement to not wake the 4 sleeping children or my wife, knowing, one way or another, that it was going to be a loud ending (yes children’s toys had to be repaired before I went back up)?
Simply put, sport is a microcosm of life and provides us many lessons. My favorite is football as it is the sport I played and coached. I have a bias towards contact/collision sports, but it applies to sports in general. I’m no NFL player but grew up playing sports and can easily state that playing football in little old Amherst, MA (known for being the children of flower children) helped teach me adversity, discipline, faith and persistence. These lessons have served me well. I recently got into a Twitter “battle” with some lady badmouthing football, to the tune of blaming wars, all the violence in the world, famine, etc. on the simple sport of Football. I attempted to explain the benefits of sport and football and that abuse isn’t only physical. But in the end I just told her to go back to her latte, fondue and cumbaya party. But my replies were a precursor to what I’m writing/feeling now, so it was no waste of time.
These lessons come from many things in life, not just sports. But for me, football has provided the following lessons:
Adversity: Life has many obstacles and it doesn’t suffer fools. It’s well documented that no matter how many times you’re knocked down, you need to dust off get back up.
Discipline: You have to pay attention to detail and minimize mistakes (retaliating after being antagonized, not preparing for the task ahead, etc.).
Faith: Even with the odds against you, you have to believe that you’ll find a way to succeed. I recently made a major life decision based on confidence and faith in myself. I haven’t looked back since. A little known secret was when I was a young football player, I never wanted to know the score or time left in the game because I didn’t want to let up. I wanted to play every play like it was my last. My teammates thought I was an idiot because I’d always ask “what was the score” after the game, but it was simply a motivational tool for me.
Persistence: You won’t win every game but life is all about adversity and success comes to those that keep coming back and trying. Being persistent can even beat someone more skilled, stronger or faster. Ironically, last night 60 Minutes interviewed Malcom Gladwell was on his book David vs. Goliath, covering this very point. As an Umpa-Lumpa sized person playing offensive line in high school, this was a lesson learned early.
Many people turned off the TV at half-time and I don’t blame them. New England played a disgraceful bit of football at first. The game initially looked like the games I used to go to, with John “Captain Comeback” Elway leading by 21 or 24 by halftime. Though back then, there were few chances at a comeback with Scott Secules and Marion Butts. But we kept watching and we kept hoping. But the comeback in sports is probably the most exciting of sports circumstances. Faith, hope and persistence facilitates the comeback. Without those items, it’s safe to say we’d never know the elation of:
So what kept me and much of New England and the country up last night. It wasn’t loyalty. It was the faith that something special can happen, that they can do something rare. If they didn’t do it, it would hurt a bit. But if they did, I’d be flying high, screaming and calling friends at 1:00 am celebrating a historic comeback win. We now know what happened. It was only a regular season game and Denver is still the favorite but it was historic nonetheless.
I’ll teach my kids to engage in some type of sport or activity so they’ll learn these lessons. And in that process, they’ll hear me repeat the words that reflect what faith is all about “you have to feel it in your gut, know it in your head, embrace it with your heart before you see it with your eyes” (Me).
That’s my take.