Lessons from the Big Game

Published 7:24 pm Friday, February 6, 2015

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes

What were you doing during “the play?” If you were watching the Super Bowl, you know the play I’m talking about — the one in which the Seattle Seahawks managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I can tell you exactly what I was doing during the play. I was screaming, “What are you doing?!!” And that was before the interception that ruined Seattle’s chances of repeating as Super Bowl champs. I was yelling from the moment it was obvious that a pass play was being attempted.

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Like just about everyone in America — except the Seahawks coaching staff — I thought the obvious and safe call was to run the monstrous Marshawn Lynch (a.k.a., “Beast Mode”) right at New England and dare them to stop him.

But it was not to be. A pass play was called, the ball was intercepted, and Seattle suffered a catastrophic loss. Are there life lessons to be learned from such a debacle? Absolutely.

One obvious one is what Russell Wilson, the quarterback who threw the interception, tweeted the next day: “Every setback has a major comeback.” Like Coach Carroll, we’ve all made plenty of bad calls in life. Like Russell, we’ve all thrown some interceptions in life, too.

As I mentioned last week, sports can teach us the virtue of getting up off the ground, quickly turning the page, and moving on. As God says in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

What other lessons can be learned?

Perhaps one is that we can make things too complicated. Pete Carroll is an excellent coach, one of my favorites. But in this case, maybe he was trying to do too much. We can sometimes over-think and over-analyze. In the process, we make things harder than they have to be.

Here’s another lesson: The value of preparation. Whether you like him or not, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, and “the play” was a perfect example of how he got to be that way. The player who made the interception said he had made a mistake on the same play in practice, and Belichick told him he had to get to the ball sooner. When the moment arrived, great coaching had prepared him for it.

And the interception that New England’s Malcolm Butler made was truly remarkable. Maybe Seattle did make the wrong call, but the big story should be the amazing play by Butler. It required incredible quickness, perfect timing and rugged determination.

That brings us to a final lesson: Don’t give up hope. Malcolm Butler was not even drafted. He was overlooked. His dream seemed to be over. But then the Patriots gave him an opportunity.

No matter what your situation is today, hope in God. He hasn’t overlooked you. He sees you. He loves you. He gave his Son for you. Look to him. He gives you the opportunity: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.