Maybe it’s because my Connecticut sons are big Patriots fans. Maybe it’s because I was alone with my iPhone at video shoots all day yesterday. But the fascinating end of Super Bowl XLIX (yes, that is this year’s) has been much on my mind.
It seems there are lessons that Catholics can learn from how things went down — whether we want to be new evangelizers, or just want to keep on keeping on. Here are a few.
The fundamentals are important if you want to advance the ball …
At issue in much Super Bowl commentary, of course, is the Big Call. The Seahawks were a few yards from the goal line. Time was ticking down, but there was time to make a couple of plays. Marshawn Lynch is the world’s greatest running back, able to stride through yards of giants with apparent ease.
Coach Pete Carroll’s call did not give the ball to Lynch but had Russ Wilson throw it into the end zone, where it was picked off by Malcolm Butler. The rest is history — and by “history” I mean Tom Brady has joined the pantheon of the greatest of the greats with four Super Bowl rings on his throwing hand.
Daniel McInerny summed up on Facebook the workplace lesson this teaches: “Don’t get cute, stick with the fundamentals, and hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch.”
Thus it is with the faith, too. Doing wild and crazy fun new things doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with liturgies. It doesn’t work with doctrines. Every time we have tried it, we have failed to advance the ball.
… but you need to be more than a one-trick pony.
But as important as the fundamentals are, the Big Call teaches a different lesson too. As I commented on Dan’s Facebook: “And if your team has only one member capable of getting the job done, don’t be surprised when the competition beats you.”
Yes, I realize that’s unfair. Russ Wilson and the Seahawks are more than a one-trick pony. The other teams force them to be. If everyone knows you’re going to hand off to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line, they will stop Marshawn Lynch at the goal line (which is why he is 1 for 5 in that situation, as any local Chiefs fan will tell you).
The Church, too, while not departing from the fundamentals, needs to be more than a one-trick pony. St. John Paul II was a great one for inventing new ways to deliver the fundamentals: World Youth Days, the Catechism, the Jubilee and the new mysteries of the Rosary were all ways to use new methods to advance the ball. The project of Pope Francis is just that: To speak timeless truths in a new way that is better heard.
Choosing bishops is vital work.
The truth about a game like the Super Bowl is that the critical decisions are made long, long before anyone takes the field.
A fascinating Wall Street Journal article describes how Patriots Coach Bill Belichick manages the draft and chooses his players — and his style of play — such that he can get the best talent in the right place at the right time.
Pope Benedict XVI, it is said, would pore over information about potential bishops in the Catholic dioceses of the world and work hard to “get the right person on the right seat on the bus,” as Jim Collins would put it. That will pay off, big time, for the Church when we need someone in the end zone who can intercept the ball.
Deep knowledge comes in handy when a quick decision is necessary.
While we’re talking about Bill Belichick, a very enlightening article spoke about the Naval Academy football library Belichick’s father, coach Steve Belichick, helped create. With quotes from books by football greats, the author describes how Billy grew up steeping himself in football wisdom.
It is this kind of deep reading on the subject that prepared Belichick to make instant wise and wily decisions like he did in the final plays of the game.
Catholics need to do the same: Steep yourself in spiritual reading and Scripture (as the boss says) in order to be ready to do the right thing when the right time comes.
Victories are created in the dark days.
I was fascinated by what Bill Belichick said about his own Kansas City Chiefs game, which the Patriots lost disastrously. Possibly I was fascinated because my Chiefs beat both Super Bowl teams this year. Possibly I was fascinated because I was there.
“I’d say the turning point for me this season was halftime of the Kansas City game,” said Belichick. “Obviously it didn’t go well and we weren’t in any position to win the game, but at the end of the game, in the second half, I thought our team played as hard as they could play.”
When he saw them fighting hard with no chance of winning, he knew they would be okay that year.
It’s the same with the Church. When things don’t go our way, it is easy to give up and become disgusted and discouraged. When faced with the cross, it is easy to head to Emmaus. But even then, Jesus wants us to set our face like flint toward Jerusalem.
He wants us to work hard, even when we are losing, and show that our hope is stronger than our discouragement. When we do that, we sow the seeds of gigantic future victory.