Last night the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. But perhaps that’s not what you’ve heard. Maybe you heard it like this: “Last night Peyton Manning lost the Super Bowl.”
I watched the first half at Torchy’s with my kids so I can’t say I was completely tuned in. But I saw enough to feel sick to my stomach. It was a terrible game. And I don’t mean that as a fan hoping for the adrenaline rush of a tight score. I mean it as a human being watching a team of human beings fail in front of 96.88 million spectators.
It was hard to watch. I may have cried.
This morning I saw that picture of Manning walking through the confetti. Dejected. And I may have cried again. Maybe.
This morning at the gym all anyone on ESPN cared to talk about was Manning’s spectacular defeat.
At the press conference, just moments after the game, the Broncos fielded question after question about Manning’s ability.
Does his playoff record tarnish his career?
Will this loss be Manning’s legacy?
And then a reporter asked Manning to his face, “ Was tonight an embarrassment?”
And Manning said this:
"It’s not embarrassing at all. I would never use that word. The word ‘embarrassing’ is an insulting word, to tell you the truth."
He said, “We played a great team.”
And he was exactly right. The Seahawks have, arguably, one of the three or four best defenses of all time. Over the course of this season, the Seahawks have allowed exactly 16 passing touchdowns, an average of one per game. They allow the fewest number of passing yards per attempt of any team in the league.
For goodness sake, they call themselves “The Legion of Boom.”
There are 32 teams in the NFL, every one of them composed of some the most talented athletes on earth. And of those teams, ONE wins the Super Bowl.
The odds are never in your favor.
So why do we expect our team to win? And why is it so embarrassing to lose?
We will now transition from Peyton Manning to you and I and everyone else. Keep up…
For a long time I thought I could be perfect. Or that I should be perfect. I tried all the time to never make mistakes. I avoided failure as if that were the sole purpose of life. I assumed if I always tried my hardest, I would win. And if I lost, it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough. So I tried harder.
When I failed, in public especially, I was not just embarrassed. I was mortified. I felt exposed, weighed and found wanting.
But that’s changing for me, and here’s why: I’ve learned failure is a natural, unavoidable part of being human.
And that’s good news.
It’s good news because it’s not weird to fail. It’s not unexpected. It’s not improbable.
You, human being, will lose. And when you do, you need not be embarrassed.
In Bible class on Sunday we read about confession and we asked why more people don’t confess their sins to one another. The book of James promises confession brings healing and yet we avoid it, sure confession will only bring pain.
I suspect we don’t confess because it’s embarrassing, because we think our failures and sins make us different, weird. But the exact opposite is true. We’re united in our weakness. United in our complete inability to save ourselves. And when we admit our weakness to another person, we make room for that person to be weak, too.
So, listen to me say it: it’s okay to lose sometimes. I do. A lot.
Peyton Manning does, too.
You know the other thing I thought as I poured over football stats today? What a miracle it is to win.
Did you know Manning completed 34 passes last night? He set a Super Bowl record for most completed passes.
And it wasn’t enough.
Remember everybody, it takes a lot to win.
We Christians require daily intervention from the creator of the universe and still we’re a mess. A smaller mess. A freer mess. A forgiven mess. But still, sometimes, a mess.
So we need to give ourselves a break. And we need to give everybody else a break.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
Don’t forget to read the flip side:
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