Lessons From Football

A quote by Norman Cousins stood out to me this week.  “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”

Life can be so wearying at times.  This week has been especially hard for our little community.  There has been a heaviness in the air that makes me fidget, and gives me sleepless hours of turning and tossing in the middle of the night.  It has felt like having lead in your shoes, and an anvil sitting smack in the middle of your soul.

How do you take a loss and make it a win?  There are so many lessons I have learned from football over the years.  Lessons that may not be obvious on the surface, but are there when you peel back the layers of a  game more complicated than it appears to be.  I have come to love this game in a way that I never thought possible.  It is a metaphor for life.

This week we experienced a loss in our community.  I’m not just talking about the loss of a very beloved officer for the Shelby Police Department.  I am also talking about the loss of a father, a husband, a friend of many, and a community member.  And….I am also talking about the loss of another father to children who also live in our community.  A young man who has become the victim of his choices.  Can we really look at one without looking at the other?  In the eyes of God, they are equally important.  There are two men who were lost to us.  The children of these men are truly the ones who bear the brunt of this loss.

On Tuesday afternoon I took my little girl in her pink fluttery ballet costume down the street from where she takes her dance lessons.  We were busy counting the blue ribbons around the court square and down the block when we found ourselves looking at the car that was covered in flowers and surrounded by candles.  I explained to the little girl what was going on.  We had been praying for him and his family after we heard the news on Saturday.  “My heart just hurts Mommy,” she said with her tiny voice crackling under the weight of her tears.  She’s like me in that way, but The Coach can be like that too.  It was so hard to hold her little hand and know that my little girl will be lifted into the air by her daddy after Friday night’s game, but Officer Brackeen’s little girl will never be lifted into the air by her daddy again.  At least not in this life.  I choked on tears, and hid behind my sunglasses as we walked around the car looking at all the gifts and flowers that lay on the black and white vehicle that a hero once drove.  It was important for her to see it.

In football whenever you have a loss things can go one of two ways.  Players can start blaming each other and pointing fingers.   The players turn against each other, fight in the locker room, and never recover the team mentality that it takes to win, or … the team rallies together.  They choose to learn from their loss.  They decide not to quit or stay defeated.  They look at the mistakes that were made, and figure out how to get stronger as a team.  The coaches encourage the players and build them up, or occasionally take some down a notch and help them get in touch with reality.  The players don’t let themselves get down mentally, they put forth more effort the following week.  They allow the loss to fuel their desire to be better and stronger.  Sometimes changes must be made.  They study film and make a new plan of action.  Never does the positive attitude of a winning team disappear for very long.  They believe they are winners above everything else.  Believing is more than half the battle.  How will they win again?  By believing, by working to find a middle ground, and by coming together as a team.  Blaming others, spiteful words, fights and constant judgement never create a winning team.  Players may not agree, but they work it out.  They find ways to play together even if they disagree.

In our little community we have had a great loss.  What will we do now?  I have heard words of hate this week, but I have especially heard words of hope.  Loss is tough.  We will overcome our loss with teamwork.  We have to get past our differences in thoughts and opinions right now. Sometimes we have to put the team before ourselves.   If you have ever played a sport, you know this to be true.  Yes, perhaps one side is right and the other is wrong, but a quote I began using with myself, as well as my children is, “It’s more important to be kind than it is to be right” (Anne Lamott).  This is a time when it’s more important to be kind.  I have heard lots of talk about forgiveness this week.  Forgiveness is supernatural for sure, but what can we do in our daily walk to make this community better, and to create healing?  There are so many questions.  There are some who are angry.  There is a division.  What do we do?  We take a lesson from football.  We work as a team.  We play as a team.  We win as a team.  #Shelbystrong.

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