With seven seconds to go, the ball was snapped, caught, placed, kicked . . . and no good! In disbelief, the football team tried to understand what just happened. The easy kick, which would have forced overtime and kept the dream of going to the Superbowl alive, was missed. Now their season was over.
Two hours later, another game went into sudden death overtime. Back and forth it went, and when one team had to punt, everyone on the receiving team thought they had a good chance of pulling off the win. Up went the punt, down the field ran the special teams unit, and the receiver tried for the best field position he could. As he was tackled, the ball was stripped away and left bobbling on the ground. The other team recovered the ball on the twenty-yard line and quickly scored, ending the game and the receiving team’s season.
Because my team was one of the winning teams, I thought the following day would be one of celebration. While I did my best to gloat over friends who supported the other teams, I found myself thinking not of my team or their going to the Superbowl, but the kicker and receiver. One was one of the great kickers in the National Football League, the other an enormously talented rookie receiver. Each with many accomplishments, admired by many when they awakened on Sunday morning. Now they were wrestling with an unavoidable reality: they were responsible for their team’s loss.
As hard as they tried, the other teammates tried not to look in their direction after the loss. Deep down, knowing it could have happened to them, players tried to have a balanced reaction. Some even went and offered encouragement, but the aftertaste was bitter and the “what if’s” echoed in the shower, on the way home, and, I am sure, will continue throughout the off-season.
The experience has made me wonder why we see things the way we do. Why is it we look to what went wrong, instead of all that went well? When my daughter called later in the day to give me her interim grades, all of which were wonderful but one, guess which one I asked about? I hate it. I hate it for the kicker, the receiver, my daughter, and any one else who has done great things only to be later remembered for the one thing he or she did wrong.
Sitting in a church service at the end of the day, looking over at the men of the long-term rehab community in which I work, I could not help but think about all the missed kicks and dropped balls and give thanks for a God who sees beyond them all. Somehow God’s broad perspective and vast horizon weaves the details of our lives into a fabric beyond our own creating. He takes all that we are, good and not-so-good, and all we have done, good and not-so-good, and somehow makes it make sense. I can’t explain it. I can only give thanks for it.
I offered a prayer for the kicker and receiver, that they might know such grace, and I offered a prayer for you and me too.