Dignity in Victory or Defeat

Whether you wanted the Bears or the Colts to win yesterday’s Super Bowl XLI, either team was deserving of a victory. One team had had a terrific regular season and just kept winning; the other had started strong, then scrapped their way through several unlikely upsets to land in the championship. One team had a young, unproven quarterback that they stayed committed to whether he was playing well or playing badly; the other had a quarterback whose only blank spot on an otherwise stellar record was success in the postseason and a Super Bowl win.

It would have made a wonderful story no matter who won, but in the end, only one team can be crowned victorious.

In watching the game, there were so many twists and turns that either team could have won at any given time, even up to the last ten minutes or so. I haven’t watched much football, and I don’t know if I will next season, but in the few games I did see this season, I know enough to realize that, even when you’re just about a hundred percent convinced the game’s been decided, something weird can happen. At least twice, I turned the game off, thinking, “I’ll just quit; I know how this’ll turn out,” only to learn the next day that I was wrong and probably had missed some pretty exciting stuff.

One of the most gratifying things to see yesterday, though, was the dignity of coaches and players, whether they had won or lost. For many of these men, they will never get to this level again in their lifetimes, and that knowledge, no matter how you try to dance around it, is ever-present when you’re preparing for the game, while you’re playing it, and most certainly after it’s all over.

Not only was there a great demonstration of respect for everyone involved and restraint in celebration (which always shows consideration for the pain of the loser), but the game and what followed was also truly an example of team sportsmanship. Peyton Manning might have gotten talked about more than any other player on the Colts, but he could not have won without the team that shared the field with him. On the Bears’ side, Rex Grossman got a lot of the media’s attention, but again, the team stayed in the game because of the effort and skill of a lot of other players not named Rex.

In a culture that idolizes the individual, this reminder that football is a team pursuit was refreshing and humbling. The respect and friendship of the two coaches involved was also exemplary, to say nothing of their places in history.

So whether “your” team won or not, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes, step back and take their emotions out of the situation, and appreciate what an outstanding demonstration of sportsmanship, dignity and respect Super Bowl XLI provided us with last night.

I salute all the people on both teams, from the head coaches down to the janitors. It’s fleeting, success at this level, and the pressure is fierce, whether you’re trying to climb that mountain to champion or sitting on top defending your title.

But every person now has a moment in their life to look back on and say, “Wow, I did that!” May everyone have at least one.

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