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With unadulterated joy, I watched as a pass by Drew Brees fell into the arms of a defender. This was matched by the elation of watching a 57 yard field goal sail through the uprights in overtime, sending the New Orleans Saints to a crushing defeat in the NFC Championship game. Immediately, people blamed the bad call, the blown call, the obviously blown call. On New Orlean’s final drive of regulation, with the score tied, Drew Brees threw a pass toward the sideline. The defender didn’t even try for the ball (which he could have intercepted)—he just blasted the receiver well before the ball arrived. It was obvious pass interference. Should have been called…but it wasn’t. The Saints settled for a field goal, leaving the Rams with a chance to tie—which they did. After the game, everyone blamed the refs, saying the Saints got hosed. There was outrage, people calling for the commissioner to overturn the outcome of the game, which apparently is in the rule book. Who knew! If that’s the case, let’s overturn the outcome of about every Vikings playoff game… ever. Or, at least in my life time.

The over-reaction to this series of events includes: billboards, lawsuits, and calls for instant replay for everything—including the coin toss. I’m starting to think we just don’t know how to lose well. We’re forgetting the life lesson of sports that most people learn early—your team sucks and they’re going to lose. Deal with it. Or, more personally, you suck, and we’re cutting you from the team. Deal with it. Instant replay is simply one more attack on our humanity—our finitude. It’s part of our obsession to get everything perfect, to keep the world running like a fine oiled machine. No room for error, everything perfectly planned, to the point that soon there will be no incompletions, turnovers, or missed field goals. Everyone scores all the time, just like the NBA or the New England Patriots. But here’s the thing… maybe not getting it right is what makes life interesting. Of course it was a bad call! No one, not even the guy who did it, questions this. But that’s why it’s so wonderful, so blissfully painful, and so important. These are the experiences that cultivate resiliency, they toughen us up, you know, build character. These experiences make the joy in life much sweeter, and the not so joyful parts that much more tolerable. After all, it’s about learning perspective. It really is a stupid game when you think about it—grown men dressing up in funny helmets giving each other brain damage to get a ball over an imaginary line.

So this morning I thank God for blown calls and heartbreaking losses. Especially when it happens to the Saints. (Again!) That’s for Bountygate. Skol!

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

6 Comments

  • Robert Van Es says:

    It seems like that play and almost any other close game that goes down to the wire gives us an opportunity to teach our kids not to make excuses. A lost art. Thanks

  • Kent says:

    Jason, thank you for your delightful post!
    I’m not a long-suffering Vikes’ fan, but I know and love many of them.

    Now, about that root of bitterness…

    Enjoy the off-season!

  • Matt Huisman says:

    I told my son that, according to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, Cody Parkey made the field goal in another universe and the Bears won. I think that made him feel better.

  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    My take, as a former h.s. football coach (freshman & j.v, 20 seasons), and as a lifetime Bears fan: we all want to put all our hopes on one play, and make a hero/goat/villain of a player or teammate, rather than examine all the plays throughout the whole game. The Bears kicker hit 3 of 4 FGs that day—was the QB 75% accurate with all his passes? did any receiver drop passes? were there any missed blocks/missed tackles during the game? Perspective is important. Then there’s basketball—all those missed shots, missed free-throws throughout the game . . . not just one blown/or made at the end. Casey struck out to end the game—but why were his teammates so inept for 8 previous innings? (and did Casey get called off the bench, or was his game performance lack-luster up to that point?) Striving for excellence v. hoping for the hero or last minute miracle . . .

  • RLG says:

    Instant replay may be dumb, unless it should lead to receiving a couple extra thousand tax dollars back at the end of the year that my tax guy mistakenly didn’t account for. And there are probably thousands of other ways that instant replays can be helpful.

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