January 28. 2013
Pro Bowl LXXIII; Super Bowl XLVII.
That's the difference between 73 and 47 years; one of those is “long in tooth;” the other is probably still in its prime.
The first Super Bowl was played on January 15, 1967, and its origin was part of the multi-year process through which the National and American Football Leagues merged (culminating in 1970). From that first game – played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs – until today, the football game has become an American experience. It's the #2 day for American food consumption (behind Thanksgiving), but it holds the #1 spot for the Most Watched television program; in fact, the 2011 spectacle was the #1 shared television event in history.
We have a week to get ready for ol' XLVIL; by the time you read this, LXXIII will be napping in the recliner… just like the people watching it were, yesterday.
In a team sport, the idea of bringing the “All Stars” – voted in by a torturous process involving current players, coaches and fans – to a neutral field (Hawaii's Aloha Stadium) has some challenge. For a team sport to be played by men from dozens of different teams, who have spent months playing their conference and playoff schedules against one another – is no small feat. Then, the rosters cannot include the players who make up the two teams who will be fielded for Super Bowl, just seven days later. And, because the game has no real value to the players, their risk of personal injury far outweighs the slight honor that may be conveyed by being included in the exercise. Many just opt-out.
The Associated Press commented after last year's outing that the players “were hitting each other as though they were having a pillow fight.” One NFL player said, while watching the game, that “they probably should have just put flags on them,” indicating that game was about on the level of a children's game of flag football.
The Pro Bowl game has become so conflicted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that if it doesn't get better, fast, he will consider eliminating the game.
When a game is played in a team sport between two groups of individuals who are, themselves, not really a team… no one much cares. Lots of die-hard football fans archive the results of past Super Bowl match-ups, and could recount winners, losers and highlights. Last year's Pro Bowl saw 100 points on the scoreboard… but who remembers which “team” walked away with the win? (AFC, if it matters!).
Most NFL pros won't have a minute of playing time in a playoff game; the majority who enter the post-season schedule will have Super Bowl Sunday “off.” The football guys will be watched by a growing audience of fans, the further they go up the ladder. Out of 1696 active players on 34 teams, only 106 will be on the field next Sunday, and only 53 will leave New Orleans as “winners.”
There are lots of games you'll play in 2013, in your own professional “league.” Most of them will be exhibition games; the outcome won't contribute to your “league standing” at the end of the season. If you make it to the top of your workplace competition, the people applauding as you leave the board room will be few, and their motives will be mixed. How can you assure that you can play to a win, and that the victory will matter?
Paul's counsel is familiar, but remains powerful: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24). That's great advice for an NFL champion… or, for the special teams player who operates in the office next to yours.
Whether you're being watched by the 110 million viewers of Super Bowl, or only by the Super God who has his eye on you and you alone… it's your game to win, if you're really serious about how you go about it.
The pros are playing for a bonus (winners: over $83,000); so are you (“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done!”).