By John Herndon
I really didn’t have a dog in the Super Bowl fight this year but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t keenly interested.
I’ve been a Dallas Cowboy fan since I was a kid and still consider Roger Staubach my favorite player of all time. Since the Boys didn’t even make the playoffs, I just sat back and enjoyed the games when I could.
I could relate to those who would like to see someone besides Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on the sidelines for the biggest game of the year, but watching the Patriot dynasty has been something like I have rarely witnessed. With the NFL Draft rules theoretically designed to spread the wealth over time, seeing the Pats being so good nearly every year for the last two decades is beyond unreal. Love ‘em or not, you have to appreciate that.
Then with the Eagles, how could a Cowboys’ fan pull for those guys? They are the division rivals and you know how that is. I would usually rather be in a room full of rattlesnakes rather than pull for another team in the NFC East. But that was before I knew that Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles had enrolled in Liberty University’s online seminary and has a desire to be a pastor after his football career ended. It was before I knew about Coach Doug Pederson’s deep faith in Christ.
So, yeah, I was pulling for the Eagles, but I would not have lost sleep if the Patriots had won again. Next year? I will still be pulling for my Cowboys to beat the Eagles both times they play.
Still, it was so refreshing to see Foles, Pederson and others on the Eagle team so graciously give glory to God for their victory. In a year where many claimed to boycott the NFL because players were taking a knee during the National Anthem, I chose to watch when I could because 1) I really, really like pro football and 2) I have met and interviewed enough pro athletes over the year that I wanted to believe the majority believed otherwise.
Following the Eagles’ win Sunday night, Pederson said, “”I can only give the praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity.” In his post-game press conference, he said, “My faith keeps me grounded every day.”
The skeptic might say, “I don’t think God cares who wins the Super Bowl or any other game.” And I would agree with that.
But that is not what Pederson was saying. He simply thanked God that he had the chance to coach in the Super Bowl 10 years after coaching at the high school level.
And there is a lesson there for everyone: Whatever you do, do it in a way that glorifies God.
I think that is what Paul was saying in Romans 12:1,2.
“Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)
A living sacrifice. Giving everything you have.
I believe that means giving everything you have to be successful in a game or in life, then give God the thanks for making whatever outcome you have possible.
As coach of the Super Bowl champion, Doug Pederson has a platform to share the gospel. But if Tom Brady had engineered yet another Patriot miracle in the Super Bowl, those Eagles’ players would still have a platform, but with different trappings.
The key is whatever we do, whether playing in the Super Bowl or shooting baskets with a friend, our Christian faith should shine.
Over the years, I have lamented the removal of pre-game prayers at high school sporting events. When I first started writing for The Anderson News in 1985, I was occasionally asked to lead those prayers. Several years ago, my job required that I write about the local school board banning the football coach from leading his team in prayer after a game. I want to believe that was an overreach by our government.
However, something else I have seen is the growth of postgame prayers by players on both teams. I have seen this mostly at basketball games but also in other sports. It’s one player standing in a circle of players from both teams leading in prayer. And often that player has been on the losing team.
The competitor in me says that has to be tough. You’ve just come up short but still give thanks to God for the opportunity to play. That is a witness on the platform available, just as Doug Pederson used his platform Sunday night.
Doing everything we do for God’s glory is what we are called to do regardless of where we are.