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[Coach Jim Fassel’s Son Bears Family Likeness, source: Bill Pennington, "34 Years Later: One Coach’s Sweetest Victory," New York Times (5-16-03)]

As the head coach of the New York Giants, Jim Fassel has enjoyed great success on the football field with a trip to the Super Bowl as recently as 2001. A fresh off-the-field-success, however, might be his sweetest victory. The story begins 34 years ago.

The year was 1967; Jim and Kitty Fassel were freshmen in college in Fullerton, California when they met, fell in love, and made a mistake. In the late summer of 1968, as they were getting ready to start their sophomore years, they found out Kitty was pregnant. Since abortion was never an option for them, they seriously considered marriage before accepting their parents’ advice that being forced into a wedding was no way to start their lives together. Kitty left southern California to attend a Colorado business school and have the baby. On April 5, 1969, a healthy baby boy was born and three days later given up for adoption.

Even though Jim and Kitty got married two years later and raised four more children during their 32 years of marriage, the unanswered questions about their firstborn son haunted them. They tried for years to make contact with their son but were unsuccessful, until a change in Colorado adoption laws in July of 2002. On Mother’s day, May 2003, they spoke on the telephone for the first time, and three days later they met face-to-face.

The Fassel’s reunion with their son, John Mathieson, turned into a genuine reconciliation. Said Coach Fassel: "For John, Kitty, and myself, we have lived with an unanswerable question for all these years. If someone had granted us one wish in the world, it would always have been to be together and to know things were okay. Instead you carry this question around with you, and you never know how it will come out. So to have a day like today, it is a miracle."

The family resemblance between Mr. Fassel and his long-lost son, John Mathieson, is obvious even at a glance, but for years Mathieson did not know who his true father was. He bore the image of his father but was unaware.

Mathieson recalls watching a November 2000 replay of Coach Fassel on television making a now-famous prediction. The Giant’s were reeling from two consecutive losses at a time when they should have been ramping up for a playoff run. Most commentators were writing them off and suggesting that a postseason birth was out of the picture. In that context, Fassel used his post-game news conference to boldly predict that his Giants would make it to the playoffs.

Mathieson recalls: "I turned to Kristi [his wife], pointed at the television and said: ’That’s what I would have done.’ I said: ’That guy is doing the right thing.’ When they went to the Super Bowl that year, I must have seen that television clip 20 times. I always thought: ’That’s the way to handle it. I’d have done the same thing.’"

When this story hit the headlines, I couldn’t help but think of some parallels to the story of humanity and our own "reunion" with our heavenly father. As Paul reminds us, we are "created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24). Even though we bear his image, it often takes us many years to discover who it is that God made us to be.

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