The personal sacrifice of defeat: Lessons of the Super Bowl

High School Football @Jacquie Kubin
High school football - @Jacquie Kubin

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2014 – Last night’s Super Bowl ended as all the previous ones have, with one team gloriously basking in the glow of victory, the other suffering the agony of defeat. Granted, this year’s defeat was pretty rough.  Nearly a shut-out.

Regardless of the final score, the point remains: one team has always got to come out the loser.  Knowing that, what exactly drives these guys to work so hard for something so elusive? To start in childhood to train their bodies to be bruised, bloodied and broken for the 50/50 chance to win the game.

How does the sacrifice the athlete makes relate to our spiritual walk?

The apostle Paul touched on it in 1 Corinthians when he said,

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

As much as elite athletes give of their bodies and hearts and souls for their game, in the end it is just a game. They compete and work and strain themselves nearly to the point of breaking, for the chance at something that ultimately will not last. 

As people of faith, we have something much more permanent and much more incredible than a Super Bowl victory and all the perks it brings; we have a shot at eternity. As much as we admire and marvel at our athletes for their commitment to their training, perhaps we should also try to apply some of that discipline and enthusiasm in our own walks of faith.

Surely such an eternal and divine prize is worth the same level of discipline and enthusiasm.

Regardless of whether you’re a football fan, or which team you root for, surely we can agree that there is something to be admired in a person who will dedicate their whole body to their sport. These men go out every day and practice, earning bruises and scars and sore muscles, just so they can hit the field on game day.

Yes, professional athletes are incredibly well compensated financially, but the overarching theme among the great majority of the players is abject dedication to the sport, no matter the physical sacrifice.

The sacrifice comes not just for the love of the game, but for the chance at victory. Not just short-term victory, but for the ultimate victory – in the case of football, the Super Bowl. Every little kid who takes up a helmet knows that the odds are stacked against his ever winning the Super Bowl.  Regardless, every little kid believes to his core that he will get there one day.

That singular goal is what drives the hearts and minds of athletes to beat down their bodies’ cries for mercy and keep working, to ignore the screaming muscles and keep running, to shut out the cold or the heat or the whatever and just keep giving for their sport.

So next time you find yourself in awe of someone giving their all for football, or golf, or figure skating or any other sport that demands so much of its participants, use it as a reminder to devote your own energies similarly in your walk of faith.  After all, there’s inspiration all around, even on the gridiron!

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