Julie was standing on the front porch. I was standing in the den, yelling at the direction of the television. Jack was standing beside me, confused about some of what was happening. I don't remember where Sam was at the time. It was not a moment of family chaos or calamity. It was the NFL in January. It was a win or go home situation for the Atlanta Falcons. But, even more than all of that, it was a moment where careers are defined or burdens are carried forward without relief.
On Sunday, the Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 30-28. The game itself was one of domination followed by near collapse. After leading by as many as 20 points through three quarters, the Falcons played themselves into trouble in a matter of minutes and found themselves trailing with 31 seconds remaining in the game. It would have been the greatest playoff comeback in league history and the worst collapse. It would have been the team's loss, but the blame would have fallen more heavily on one set of shoulder pads. The Falcons' young quarterback, Matt Ryan, would have been the scapegoat, fair or unfair.
The Neilsen ratings out this week report that 70% of the homes in Atlanta with television were tuned in for the end of the game. Millions more were watching to see how they would respond. After the game, one of the Falcons' receivers remembers what his QB said when they huddled up: "First thing Matt said coming into the huddle was, ‘No matter what, everybody just do their job'." It all came down to the next three plays.
Here is my problem with the whole scene. Regardless of what was about to happen, it was not right. Atlanta has won 56 regular-season games over the last five years, second most of any team in the NFL, but according to some they had a reputation for choking in the playoffs. Journalists from every printed rag and crummy network had spent this season telling us the historic 13-3 record the Falcons had amassed meant nothing until they won in January and that Ryan was no good without a "W" this weekend. I don't think that is right.
In the Gospels, Jesus went from healing hundreds of people and preaching the most amazing sermons, to being scoffed at by companions and raged on by crowds. Reducing life into one moment or one statistic seems good, but it is wrong.
When the game-winning kick went through the goalposts with .08 showing on the clock, Julie knew from my shrieks of delight the outcome was good. She came in to watch the replay and, right before they showed it, Jack looked up and said, "Dad, when you watch it this time don't yell so loud when it goes through." Yes, sir. I will try and keep things in a little better perspective. It was just one game, after all.
Grace and Peace, Scott