by Father Mark Goldasich
Oddly enough, it was the concussive sound of what had to be an intercontinental ballistic missile that alerted me that it was safe to turn on the TV.
Having been warned of the very real possibility of a heart attack for people (like me) who get too emotionally involved in the fate of their sports teams, I stayed away from watching the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
In fact, I even put on noise-canceling headphones lest my neighbors — with a cheer or a groan — tip me off as to how things were going.
After that ICBM — in reality, some massive firework — I flipped on the TV for the last couple of minutes of the game. I was thrilled to see the Chiefs beating the 49ers, 31-20. I had absolutely no idea that just a few minutes before, we were behind by 10 points. Yeah, my heart couldn’t have taken that stress.
I really was hoping for a Chiefs win. After all, it had been 50 years since we’d even been in a Super Bowl. I remember watching that 1970 game at my aunt’s and uncle’s house, since they had something really special: a color TV.
I was 14 and would never have imagined how long it would take to get back to the Super Bowl.
I wanted a win for a number of reasons, especially for Coach Andy Reid. I wanted quarterback Patrick Mahomes to dazzle the nation. Most of all, I wanted it for KC sports fans, who know well how many times our teams have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
And so, I prayed for the Chiefs — not specifically for a victory, but that we’d play our best and that the players from both teams would stay healthy.
The biggest thing I prayed for was that I could accept the outcome of the game . . . if we lost. There was so much hope riding on this team in the hearts of Chiefs Kingdom. People were united as one, regardless of race, political affiliations, religious beliefs or neighborhoods. A loss could destroy this and plunge people into a lingering depression.
I know it’s not logical to think of a sports team’s victory or defeat affecting people on such a deep level. But, I can tell you from personal experience, it does. It’s a hugely emotional thing.
But, the Chiefs did win! And I was amazed at the parallels between their philosophy for winning and the spiritual life. Here are a few of those lessons:
• Never quit. Inevitably, there will be ups and downs in games and in life. Pressing onward, no matter what, helps develop a courageous and stalwart heart.
• Don’t go it alone; rely on your team for encouragement and support. A heartwarming thing about this group of Chiefs is that they’re like a close family. Spiritually, too, we don’t need to go it alone. We have plenty of people — both living and in heaven — working with us to grow in holiness.
• Make it about others. In interviews, it was clear the players wanted this victory for Coach Reid and the fans. It wasn’t about their greatness, but about bringing joy to others. Being other-centered is where true and lasting happiness is found.
• Concentrate on one play at a time. Don’t look too far into the future or be distressed about the past. Remain in the present and take it one step at a time. Holiness, too, happens one prayer, one good deed, at a time.
• Be humble and grateful. Mahomes is a great example of this. Although hugely talented, he always gives credit to others: God, his parents, his teammates, the fans. No one is self-made; being grateful for the help of others defines a humble person.
I’ll end with this story:
There was a piano teacher who had many students over the years. Inevitably, when she prepared them for a recital, she would have them practice the conclusions over and over again. When students grumbled because of the repetition of the last few measures of music, the wise teacher would always answer, “You can make a mistake in the beginning or you can make a mistake in the middle. The people will forget all that if you make the ending glorious.” (Found in Paul J. Wharton’s “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers.”)
The 49ers learned that lesson the hard way.
Let’s not do the same, but instead live each day of our lives as if it were the last so we can win, not a trophy, but a crown of glory in heaven.