Of God and Football
A few days ago the Seattle Seahawks did the virtually impossible. They came back to win a game that by all accounts should have been relegated to the trash heap of franchise history. With just a 0.10% chance of winning the game after Russell Wilson was picked for the fourth time that day Green Bay started the celebration a few minutes too early. Unbeknownest to anyone in attendedance they were about to witness the comeback of all comebacks for Seattle. A comeback destined to go down in NFL history as one of the greatest.
By now the history is being set, the talk of the town is about what happened next. When Seattle gets the ball back there is only about 5 minutes left to play in the game, they trail the Packers 19-7. Green Bay is confident in their victory as they have shut down the Seahawks all day with the exception of one gadget play, a fake field goal attempt, that yeiled a touchdown. Then it was like a someone somewhere flipped a switch. Russell Wilson scored the first offensive touchdown of the game. The score 19-14 Green Bay.
I told my children that the only hope now is to retrieve an onside kick, which never happens. As a Seahawks fan I have seen many an onside kick with my heart in my throat praying against all hope that we get the ball back, and I cannot recall it ever happening. So I was not about to get too excited about this one. Haushka sets it up and kicks it to Green Bay straight to number 86, who immediately jumps up to give the ball a header. Then in super slow motion the ball gently lands in the arms of Chris Matthews. Unbelieveable. This is new. The switch has stayed on... We are still in it!
Now we have just a few minutes to score and Marshawn Lynch does the honors, as soon as he hits the ten yard line I blurt out to the kids, "He's got it!" As the Beast calmly walks into the end zone, and quietly shakes hands with a few of his fellow teamates. We are in the LEAD! 19-20 Seattle.
Now to go for the 2-point conversion, otherwise Green Bay can go down and score a field goal to win it. Then Wilson takes the snap and is quickly rounded up and corned on the far side of the field with few options save one; a cross body throw to the opposite side of the N-Zone. He throws a rainbow pass to the other Willson who waits an eternity for the ball to fall into his arms. Then he makes the catch! 2 points! 19-22 Seattle.
Aaron Rodgers mounts a quick offensive to get the ball into field goal territory to tie the game up. 22-22 All. We are going to overtime. The drama is not over, but we are in it, if we win the coin toss we will have a chance to put the game away. Checking for said switch, it is firmly locked down in the on position, and Seattle wins the coin toss.
Now as a Seattle fan since 1976 I am used to disappointment. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop, I have been carefully conditioned over the decades to moderate my expectations. I am hopeful but the stress is still there. On the next drive I see no signs of slowing. Then Russell Wilson throws a long pass, we are in field goal range. We are going to score! Then as I am still going through senerios in my mind on the very next play we SCORE! Wilson to Kearse for the touchdown! The family room erupts and the cat almost died from our excitement! Unblelieveable, just simply unbelievable. Who would have ever thought such a thing would ever happen in Seattle? 22-28 Seatle is going to the Super Bowl! Again!
As great as all of this was, and it was exciting to be sure. The even better part was yet to take place. A great spiritual lesson begins to form right there on the field. Gathered in the middle of the gridiron a prayer service breaks out. Now for years Christian players from both teams meet in the middle of the field for prayer after the game. Usually this little ceremony is, for the most part, ignored. However, this time we are right there in the midst of it with Russell Wilson's tear streamed face thanking God for what just happened.
Then comes the first interview after the game. “God is too good all the time, man,” Wilson told Erin Andrews of FOX Sports immediately after the win. “Every time.” At the hieght of emotion in the moment we get to see what a person is really made of. We get to see Russel Wilson's reaction to what just happened, here is the clip
Did you catch that? "I just believe that God prepared me for these situations. God’s prepared our team too as well. Like I said, I’m honored to be on this team." If God was not there in Russell Wilson's heart those words would never escaped his lips at that moment. We have a bonafied believer who is not ashamed to thank God and to give him credit. There are a lot of players in the NFL that say they believe and many do, but we can see through Russell Wilson's reactions that he does believe. For that I am glad that Christians have a positive representative.
Some have said that God does not pick sides in football games. Some have blasted Ruseell Wilson for his comments saying that there were plenty of Christians playing for Green Bay as well. While it is true that God does not fix games for one team over the other. He does choose to bless those who honor him. God tests our reactions when things do not go our way. He wants to see if we are truly relying on Him because we love Him or if we are just fair weather fans. When we proove that we trust in God no matter what the outcome, many times he chosses to bless us in the here and now for our faith. NFL football players have an equal opportunity to be blessed by God in their chosen profession as much as anyone else in any other profession. While God does not choose sides he does choose people who are faithful to Him. I do not know about Aaron Rodgers or what his faith is like or if he holds to any kind of faith. I think it is safe to assume that we would not have gotten the same reaction out of Aaron Rodgers had the Packers won as we did out of Russell Wilson.
So when Russell Wilson says that God orchestrated the whole game, the turnovers and the turn around in order to show what a great God He is to Wilson and the rest of the team. Maybe Russell has a point. Maybe God does care about football when it is being used to teach spiritual lessons. Maybe there are lessons for both teams. Lessons about what is truly important in the game of football, or the personal development that occurs in order to see success. To show the kind of success that honors God and gives back to people, or the kind of success that shows how to be gracious in defeat. The kind of success that shows how to be a sportsman and not a whiner; to do what is right in the sight of all on the biggest sports stage in the nation. Maybe, just maybe, God showed up for the Seahawks so they could learn about how to win and not give up, while at the same time showing up for the Packers so they could learn how to overcome a tough loss. God may or may not be into the game of football, but He is into character building, and just because it is the NFL does not mean God is going to stay out of it when there are lessons to be learned.