Monday, February 27, 2012

Hard Work and Faith Doesn't Always Equal Success

Kurt Warner's book
Josh Hamilton on ESPN cover
In our recent era of sports, it seems like every outspoken Christian athlete is finding unusual success at the professional level. Kurt Warner, Josh Hamilton, Tim Tebow, and Jeremy Lin have all gone through different paths, but the similarities they share lie in their faith and perseverance to succeed when at times they themselves must have had doubts. But amidst all the feel good stories, we can forget that the most important thing is not about the success of getting to the top. This may sound cliché, which in fact it actually is, but that’s because it’s the truth. A while back, I wrote a post titled “Win or Lose, It’s How You Play the Game,” which focused on the beauty of the game and the beauty of losing. The funny thing about faith is the core belief that there will never be tangible proof; hence there are also no guarantees. The amazing part of these stories is that the athletes kept going when they could have given up, whether it was when Kurt Warner was packing groceries, Josh Hamilton sitting in rehab, or new golden boy Jeremy Lin realizing he might never grow past his 5’3” high school freshman height. However, what would their stories mean to us or even themselves if they failed? Would we praise them, would we hate on them, would any of these men even be relevant? Without the miracle late game comebacks, there is no “Tebowmania,” and without the Knicks being so desperate to try anything, there is no “Linsanity.”

They say you grow and learn more from failure, but we all know that it also can mean needing to fight that much harder to get back to the same opportunities. What stuck with me from this past NFL playoffs didn’t come from any winning team, but instead how two teams handled their losses. The Ravens and 49ers could have deservingly gotten the chance to play for this past Super Bowl, but multiple devastating mistakes turned the dream into a real life nightmare. We have become a society that is unforgiving towards those who have made mistakes in critical moments, like Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman. Easily the names of Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff could be added to the list. Our society replays people’s failures in big moments over and over, keeping the nightmare from passing. But something changed this time, and after all the hate tweets and Facebook statuses were posted, people decided to stand up for the accused athletes. I mentioned before the respect I now have for Ray Lewis because of the way he came out and defended his teammates and took responsibility for the loss as a team. His post-game locker room speech will stick with me forever. And after multiple death threats to Kyle Williams, it took a letter from a 7 year old for the world to realize that he simply made a mistake; a mistake in a kid’s game that adults blew way out of proportion.

In the same post mentioned above, I also spoke about Colt McCoy. He recently did an interview with a pastor in Austin, Texas, reflecting back on the ill-fated turn of events at the National Championship game against Alabama. Colt might never have a chance to win the Super Bowl or even make the playoffs. As the starting quarterback on a team that has struggled for years, it is hard to imagine a turnaround in the near future, not to mention rumors of Cleveland picking up another prospect quarterback in this upcoming draft. As a Texas alumni and fan of Colt McCoy, it worries me that he will be cut and maybe he will never have a fairytale ending. But society needs to take notice and listen to what a man like Colt has to say. A man’s word when things are going well can only carry so much weight, but a man praising God during the worst nightmare of his life has an impact like no other. Sometimes hard work can only get you so far. Sometimes a freak accident happens or the ball takes a funny bounce and brushes against your knee. Some call it fate and others call it chance, but whatever it is, I call it life. There are so many life problems in today’s world that are far graver, from human trafficking to world hunger. Just last week, I saw a building about 50 yards from my apartment burst into flames. It was completely destroyed, and it was a tragic reminder that everything we love and care about could be gone in a moment. Life just isn’t always fair. What happened to Colt certainly wasn’t fair, and because of that, he failed. But he stood right up and kept on going.

So I hope that as much as we love sports, let’s not lose perspective. Like Ray Lewis said in his speech after their gut wrenching loss, “This right here makes us stronger. Let's understand who we are as a team, let's understand who we are as men, and let's make somebody smile when we walk out of here. We got the opportunity to keep going, men. Let's be stronger as a team, men. Let's be who we are.” We all face different struggles, but even when you are having a tough day, you can go out and make someone smile. So work hard like there is no reward at the end, work hard like no one would notice, and keep having faith no matter the outcome. Because someone out there will be inspired and that should be enough to keep us going.


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