A Hail Mary Pass

It’s Do or Die time in the NFL. These last games of the season determine who will make it into the postseason. The stakes only get higher with each playoff match-up being a Win or Go Home situation.

On February 1, one team, and one team only, will be left on the field. Confetti will be raining down on them as they stand victorious, surrounded by family, friends and fans as they hoist the Lombardi Trophy into the air.

That leaves 31 teams on the losing end of this deal. With each step closer to the Big Game, the expectations only get larger; making almost getting to the Super Bowl – or getting there and losing – feel like a slam to the ground from high in the air. It’s even been said that the weight of disappointment is heavier than the coveted award and the sting of defeat can last longer than the thrill of victory.

Being a fan of several teams and a huge admirer of tons of individual players and coaches, I can’t help but feel for the guy who played his heart out but has no prize to show for his efforts. It makes me wonder if there are any words to offer that could lift their crushed spirits. Having no one idea if it will connect, I’m heaving this Hail Mary.

To the great players and coaches who give their all to the game of football; who play for the love of it and not the glory of it; who take the privilege of being a role model seriously and inspire everyone who watches them on and off the field, I have this to offer:

I hope you win. But if you can’t, I hope you don’t lose the invaluable lessons that only come in a loss. The truth is that when people set out to accomplish great feats, sometimes they fall short. And sometimes they fall hard. If you find yourselves on your knees, stay there, go deep and dig for the lesson that’s buried somewhere in the massive pile of disappointment. What you may find out is that football doesn’t define you. You could discover you are so much stronger than you ever thought you were. You may realize that every true champion has suffered the agony of defeat and this lesson further qualifies you for that category. The well-earned wisdom you walk away with will serve you in ways you can’t even imagine.

What I hope is never lost on you is how proud your fans are of your efforts and how grateful parents are that our children have role models like you who demonstrate the dedication, focus and determination it takes to win, the humility it takes to lose graciously and the courage it takes to get back up. Thank you for another unforgettable season.

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