Summary: We're coming up on NFL football season. Autumn approaches. There is no greater idol in Wisconsin than Packer and Badger football season. Green Bay Packer season, of course, being the most important.
“When we place our dependence in God, we are unencumbered, and we have no worry. In fact, we may even be reckless, insofar as our part in the production is concerned. This confidence, this sureness of action, is both contagious and an aid to the perfect action. The rest is in the hands of God – and this is the same God, gentlemen, who has won all His battles up to now.” -Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers Coach
We're coming up on NFL football season. Autumn approaches. There is no greater idol in Wisconsin than Packer and Badger football season. Green Bay Packer season, of course, being the most important. That being so, I was raised in a culture of football sports. The entire week at times seemed to revolve around the sit down on Sundays to eat, drink, and watch the football game. In light of that, I'd like to share some of the truths I've learned about living life, from some of the greatest football players and coaches the league has ever know.
American football is special. In fact it's special to me. Sports used to be my life when I was younger. NFL is important to hundreds of millions of Americans. It remains so today, perhaps even more so than in the past.
I was raised in the frozen tundra of North central Wisconsin. I've been to Packer football games over 10 times. I've been to Badger football and basketball games even more than that. My parents were at the Super bowl between the Packers and the Patriots. They were even at the next Super bowl when Green Bay lost to Denver. Football is in my blood. In Elementary and junior high I played flag football, and tackle football. We played football at recess, football after school, football on holidays, and football in the school leagues. My heroes were men like Brett Favre, Reggie White, Sterling Sharpe, Leroy Butler, and Robert Brooks.
“People consider me a success because I'm a good football player and make lots of money. But if my heart's not right, if I'm not living a life pleasing to God, I'm a failure.”
? Reggie White
What does it mean for a man to live well? Is it the amount of success he achieves in life? Or recognition? What is greatness? What does living a life of excellence look like? Is it simply a question of hard work? Or is there something more to it?
For many it's about money. Money, money, and more money. For others it may be about acquisition of power. For others it might be about finding the picturesque family situation, with a home, good job, summer vacations, and a white picket fence.
People we look to, people we think have "made it" often attest to the fact that they find themselves unfulfilled fundamentally. Think of Robin Williams, a comedian and actor loved dearly by the American public. He was rich, successful, and then he kills himself. Why? He had achieved so much, yet had so little.
I think of the story of Deion Sanders, an all star corner back in the NFL. Yet after achieving his greatest ambition of winning the super bowl, he's on the phone ordering a new Lamborghini... At that moment he has this terrible sinking feeling in his gut. He realizes he's achieved his greatest goal. The game is over. He's at the hotel room. It's all starting to wear off. He realizes he feels empty. He's at the top, and there's nothing there (as actor Jim Carey once said). What does he do? What's next when you've achieved your greatest aspiration? The moments passed, and he got on his knees in that hotel room and turned his life over to a power greater than himself, Jesus Christ.
Some of the greatest players and coaches in the NFL have been devout Christians. Barry Sanders gave 10% of his paychecks to his local protestant church. He was a firm believer in Jesus Christ. Of course he wasn't perfect, but lived it to the best of his ability. He was known to be humble, and often quite soft spoken. Yet he was deadly on the playing field, one of the best running backs who ever played the game. Today we think of players like Tim Tebow, and members of the Seattle Seahawks, as well as many others who profess outspoken faith in Jesus Christ.
Coach Vince Lombardi was himself a devout Catholic Christian. In fact he said that his strength came from the reception of the sacraments and daily mass attendance. Lombardi is known as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. He placed a strong emphasis on the virtue of his players and excellence on the field of play. He rode his team hard, but also loved and supported his team just as much.