by Sam Chen
I don’t watch a lot of football, compared to some people. And, when I do watch, it’s not to learn lessons; it’s to be entertained.
But, on occasion, there are lessons that may be learned, if we’re willing see beyond the entertainment.
First, it hurts
Football can be brutal. CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is a recognized progressive degenerative condition that seems to have shortened the lives of some players before their time and contributed to premature decline of mental ability, even disability, in others.
First described in 1928 in professional boxers, it occurs in other contact sports, including football.
It was a sad thing to see Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay), once perhaps, as he himself proclaimed, “the greatest,” hoist a U.S. flag at the 2012 London Olympics with trembling and perhaps some hesitation. He took trembling, tentative steps as he walked because he had Parkinson’s disease, almost certainly the consequence of getting hit one too many times in the head.
He developed it at the age of 42.
CTE is the consequence of repeated trauma to the brain, and has been observed not only in the NFL but in college football players and even in some high school football players.
It is one thing to get hit in the body. It can be quite another to get hit in the head. The head was not designed to get hit. Particularly with repetition.
(I am glad my 12-year-old grandson plays only flag football, which entails much less risk. He has, however, taken an interest in boxing. I was happy when his parents got him a helmet. It will offer at least some protection.)
But I don’t just want to carp about a sport that is a source of entertainment for many—and a source of revenue for a few.
Rather, it is to highlight, as might be done with a yellow marker, something I heard while viewing an NFL game on TV recently.
The 6-2 Dallas Cowboys were playing the 3-6 Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Despite having 2-time-MVP Aaron Rodgers as quarterback, it has, so far, not been a good year for the Packers.
On one play, when the Packers had the ball, Rodgers threw a pass to one of his wide receivers (WR) who, running just inside the right sideline, had a step on the Cowboys defender.
But the WR was one step behind the pass. Why?
In the instant replay (something one gets with TV), one could immediately see why. The WR slowed his pace for a moment when he looked back at the quarterback.
That moment was enough. The football landed just ahead of him on the turf, beyond his outstretched arms.
It seemed a perfectly thrown ball. I’m reasonably sure Aaron Rodgers would concur.
Whereupon one of the TV commentators observed this: “Wide receivers are taught to run as fast as they can. They are taught not to look back, but up. If they look back, they will slow down. If they look up, they may catch the ball.”
No one knows this better than the quarterback. The ball has left his hand before the WR has reached the point at which he is supposed to catch the football.
Don’t look back—look up
Satchel (Leroy) Paige (1906-1982), of baseball fame, recognized the importance of not glancing back.
“Don’t look back,” he said. “Someone might be gaining on you.”
Lot’s wife looked back when fleeing Sodom. She had been instructed not to, but couldn’t resist.
Immediately she became a pillar of salt.
Even though we live in a 3-dimensional world (after physicist Albert Einstein, some might argue 4-dimensional, the 4th being time), often we forget to look up.
Decades ago, when I attended flight school preparatory to getting my pilot’s license (which I never got), I learned to better appreciate the beauty (and potential treachery) of the space above terra firma.
Accustomed to the dimensions with which most are familiar, I had conveniently forgotten the vastness of space above me. I hadn’t looked up enough.
Even now I struggle.
The vertical connection is something the value (some would say necessity) of which believers recognize. Like Jacob’s ladder in his dream in the wilderness before he met his feared brother, Esau, there is a dimly appreciated ladder that connects Earth with points far beyond.
That metaphor appeals to me.
Invisible to many, barely perceptible to some. Angels may figuratively or literally travel that ladder. Being created “a little higher” than humans, they are likely constrained by neither gravity nor fatigue. (“A little higher” may be profound understatement. Particularly when one remembers one angel was responsible for the deaths of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.)
Rather than being an impediment, their wings must aid them, too.
Hebrews 11, widely considered the faith chapter of Holy Writ, did not speak to this issue, but it might have.
It might have included a passage, saying: “By faith, some see Jacob’s ladder.”
The chapter does mention Jacob, but not his ladder.
Regardless, it behooves us to look up.
Not being skilled wide receivers, we may not catch a football. Instead, something far more lasting and valuable.
A crown. And my understanding is, it is available to all.
Particularly if we look up.
S.M. Chen writes from Southern California.