On March 24, Peyton Manning turned 40 years old. In his honor, I’m throwing it back to a Facebook post I wrote before the Broncos vs. Seahawks Super Bowl.
My daughter asked me why I want Peyton Manning to win this Super Bowl as much as I do. Before I answered her, I thought about it.
I want him to win because, even though his career has had more lows than people realize, he loves the game of football. I want him to win because when his team replaced him with a younger, stronger quarterback, he said a gracious, emotional good-bye to his fans. I want him to win because, no matter where he plays, he brings out the best in his teammates. I want him to win because when his little brother played in his first Super Bowl, he hid in the shadows of a press box so he wouldn’t draw attention. The only image of him was when he threw up his hands in victory, as if he won the game himself.
The answer I gave my daughter was, “I want him to win because I am sure he has a really nice mom.”
Sometimes, despite careful preparations and leaving it all on the field, a team cannot win. When all is said and done, their opponent has more points on the board and the team is left with a tally mark in the L column. Handling this loss, especially an unexpected one, can be a tricky process.
It is, however, a vital component of the game of football.
Dealing with defeat does not just apply to football, of course, and is something we all encounter. Whether it applies to a business deal or a personal relationship, sometimes despite our best efforts, the end result is a loss. And handling this loss, especially an unexpected one, can be a tricky process.
It is, however, a vital component of life.
One advantage the game of football has is the game clock. When time runs out, the game is over. Like it or not, it’s time to face the scoreboard and leave the field.
When it comes to the game of life, unfortunately, some refuse to leave. Even when the game is over, they stay for hours, days, months and even years after everyone else has gone home and moved on with their lives.
I have been known to stumble around a dark field looking for the ball, refusing to admit I’ll never find it. I’ve done this to the point of utter exhaustion and I have no choice but to be still. And only then can I hear the game-ending whistle blow.
In life, game clocks come in the form of wisdom; wisdom that only comes when we are still enough to hear it; wisdom that makes signals clearer; and wisdom that reminds us we can’t learn the lessons of defeat until we admit we have lost.
And it is this wisdom that leads us to learn a coveted skill every great football player has mastered: resiliency.
Resiliency is defined as the power and ability to recover from adversity. It comes after looking at the scoreboard and admitting defeat; after accepting the lessons learned in the loss; after forgiving yourself and others for perceived missteps and then getting back out there.
Resiliency is a trait only people who have encountered defeat can honestly say they have. It is earned by trying, failing and trying again; by being knocked over and getting back up; and by battling and overcoming resistance time and time again.
So the next time the game doesn’t go your way, remember it’s the losses that will teach you resiliency.
And resiliency could be your Super Bowl winning play.
In football, sometimes a team has to punt. Whether it’s the timing, field position or they just can’t find a rhythm, there are moments when the best option means punting.
Punting gives the offense a chance to leave the field and regroup, reevaluate their strategy, catch their breath and collect their thoughts.
Teams send punters out, trusting them to get the ball as far down the field as possible; maximizing the distance the receiving team must advance to score.
Teams send their defense out, trusting them to shut down their opponent.
Teams send their offense back out, trusting they will do better this time.
And they win the game.
In life, sometimes you have to punt. Whether it’s the timing, unforeseen circumstances or you just can’t find a rhythm, there are moments when the best option means punting.
Punting gives you a chance to regroup, reevaluate your strategy, catch your breath and collect your thoughts.
You trust your family, friends and co-workers to take care of business until you get back out there.
You trust God has your back and will hold the space for you.
You go back out, trusting this time, you will do better.
And then you win the game.
On an NFL football field, ‘The Red Zone’ is the space from the defending team’s twenty-yard line to the goal line. This term refers to the intensity of the action that takes place in this area of the field. Red is also seen as a warning color for the defense.
Some obvious Red Zone facts:
Expectations are high for the offense in the Red Zone. Not only are they within field goal range, they only have a short distance to go to score a touchdown.
This intense pressure is also felt by the defense. Stopping any points from going on the board or a turnover in the Red Zone could have a significant effect on the momentum of the game.
The Red Zone doesn’t come into play during every scoring drive and maybe not even in every game. However, no team has ever won a Super Bowl without having spent some time in this hot seat. So, like other essential football skills, learning to handle the heat is an art all great players must master.
A Red Zone fact I NEVER knew until recently:
The Red Zone is not limited to the gridiron.
Really?!? Yup. It’s true. Whether your goal is to run a marathon or start a business, there is a Red Zone before Every End Zone.
As explained in Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art, the intensity of the Red Zone comes into play in the form of resistance every time we set out to accomplish something important.
And, this resistance is actually a GOOD thing! For every dream, there is resistance. The resistance comes second; it wouldn’t exist if you didn’t have a dream. Plus, pressure always peaks before big breakthroughs. Meaning, the more important the activity is to the evolution of your dream, the more resistance you feel.
So, what can we take from the NFL playbook to help us in real life?
Strategies for Real Life Red Zones:
Know where you are.
The NFL Red Zone is a physical space so players know they are in it. Off the field, unfortunately, it’s not always easy to recognize. When the heat gets turned up, remember the end zone is right in front of you.
Don’t underestimate your opponent.
Just like a safety blitz, resistance can appear out of nowhere. Resistance also comes in a multitude of formations. It can be anything from negative thoughts to serious health issues to the loss of income. Many view these setbacks as failures and give up. Don’t! Stand your ground and push forward.
Visualize yourself in the end zone.
To quote the great Joe Montana, “Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first.”
Another game changer: “Live by vision, not by circumstance.”
Living in a vision successfully got NFL head coach Chuck Pagano through a real life Red Zone that could have cost him everything.
Be prepared to use every offensive weapon in your arsenal.
There are many ways to score a touchdown. Try them all, as many times as necessary, until you make it across that line.
You did it!! Without fear of getting flagged for excessive celebration, break out your best moves and invite friends to join in!!
Congratulations on a well-played victory!
I would like to formally thank Bishop Sankey for helping me win an on-going argument with my husband. And yes, I get that in marriage there should be no ‘winners’ because that makes the spouse the ‘loser’. However, I also believe a little healthy competition every once in a while keeps things interesting (especially when I win).
When NFL Tennessee Titan Bishop Sankey was asked what advice he would give to the newly drafted players, he definitively answered, “Be in the now.” He talked about the invaluable insight that is gained when you are focusing all your attention on what’s happening in the moment.
As I see it, what Bishop was describing is mindfulness. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in this field, defines mindfulness as: “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” I couldn’t wait to share Bishop’s words of wisdom with my significant other.
Here is the play-by-play that ensued:
Me: “Look what Bishop said! He’s talking about mindfulness! It’s exactly what I have been saying! Football truly is mindfulness in motion!!”
My darling spouse: “He’s not talking about mindfulness. He’s talking about being in the zone. When you get in the zone, nothing matters but that moment. You block out everything else.”
Me: “That’s mindfulness!”
His retort: “There’s more to it than that. There are things like down and distance. You always have to know how much time is left on the clock, when you need to get out of bounds, stuff like that.”
Me: “Don’t you need to have the ball in your hand before you go out of bounds? C’mon, we have all seen the guy start to move down the field before he secured the ball and he ends up dropping it.”
(sigh) My husband: “Yes, of course. You can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to make sure you secure the ball first.”
Me: “So, like Bishop said, you have to be in the now. That’s mindfulness!”
My weary opponent: “You are making this deep. It’s not that deep.”
Me: “Not that deep?!?! How can you say that?!?! Football is SO deep!! It’s about heart! It’s about connection- a connection to your teammates, to the moment, to the fire inside you. Think about the miracle plays that manifest when…”
Defeated defender: “Okay, okay, Anne, you win. I’m going to make myself a sandwich.”
He exits. Camera pans to me, dancing in the end zone.
The 2015 draft is fast approaching. Large helmets of every NFL team are on display in Chicago as fans wait with bated breath to see who will be picked to wear their team’s jersey.
It’s hard to imagine how the prospects are mentally preparing for this notoriously unpredictable event. Some will hear their names called. Some won’t. Some will be on the field in the fall. Some won’t. Some may get their names added to the record books. And some won’t.
And some will become part of NFL history; a history packed with dramatic stories of courage and personal triumph; of miracle plays and unlikely heroes; of people from all walks of life coming together to accomplish great feats; of overcoming obstacles and of the power of true connection.
In March of 2014, I had the distinct privilege of attending the NFL 101 Awards – Kansas City’s Salute to Professional Football where I listened to several NFL history makers speak. I have yet to come up with the right words to describe what it felt like being there.
Since 1969, this prestigious annual event honors one offensive player, one defensive player and one coach in each conference for his contribution of excellence to the profession of NFL football. Beginning in 2008, the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football was added to honor the life and legacy of the late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Peyton Manning was in attendance to accept an award for the 2013 season. At first, he appeared a little worse for the wear as it had only been weeks since his disappointing Super Bowl loss. That all changed, however, when he took the stage. He told funny stories about working with Adam Gase, who was seated next to him. His face lit up recalling times on and off the field with his former teammate Robert Mathis, who was also in attendance to accept an award.
Robert Mathis chose to share the stage with his head coach Chuck Pagano. Their strong bond and mutual respect was on display for all to see. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of them.
Luke Kuechly joined the celebration via the big screen from Panther’s Fan Cruise. The huge smile across his face was a clear indication of how he felt to be included in the evening.
Andy Reid received a very warm reception from the hometown crowd when his accomplishments were showcased. The 2013 season was his first year as Head Coach and clearly everyone was thrilled to have him.
Honored as the 2013 NFC Coach of the Year, Ron Rivera shared the spotlight with the person he credits as having the single-biggest impact on his coaching career, Mike Ditka. Listening to their personal accounts can only be described as a football fanatic’s dream come true.
The most moving moment of the night came from the 2013 Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football recipient, Len Dawson. He spoke straight from the heart, with tears in his eyes, about how blessed he feels to call football his profession. There wasn’t a person in the room who wasn’t touched by his testimony.
So, to those draft prospects hoping to hear their names called, I can’t imagine how you are feeling. However, by being in that room, I did get a glimpse of what is waiting for you. And it is greater that you can ever imagine.