Today is SUPER BOWL Sunday, which started in 1967 when I was 5 years old. I don’t remember much about the first 15 or so because I wanted to play more than watch. Some stand out. I do remember living in the NY/NJ area and it being a very big deal that Joe Namath guaranteed a SBIII victory as a 20 point underdog and somehow won 16-7 over Johnny Unitas and the Colts. My best friend Chris was a Washington Redskin fan and had a real helmet, so SB VII in 1973 was important to him, though they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins, who would go back to back the next year and never win it again. Pittsburgh, Dallas, Oakland, and San Francisco would exchange wins for the next decade-plus until the 1986 Chicago Bears came along. They had a star-studded team with many HOF players on both sides of the ball including Walter Payton, and beat New England by 36 in a romp. They made a cheesy song/video called the “Super Bowl Shuffle” and they were poised and confident to go undefeated and join the Dolphins as the only teams to do that, but on a memorable Monday night, despite a below average year, the Dolphins and Dan Marino pulled out a magical game and handed Chicago their only loss of the year. I worked at SBXXI and SBXXII in LA and San Diego for the Los Angeles Times. I couldn’t get a ticket inside the stadium. In SBXXV the Buffalo Bills were huge favorites against the NY Giants. Everything was going well until Scott Norwood missed a chip shot field goal wide left as time expired and the Bills would go on to lose 4 straight Super Bowls and haven’t won one yet. The Giants won 2 Super Bowls since, both over the New England Patriots, both using miracle catches from Eli Manning to secure the victories. Since 2002, the Patriots would play in half of the next 18 Super Bowls, going 6-3 in the most impressive run in NFL history. These games feature so many “almosts”… Many were decided by inches or just one play… QBs like Starr, Namath, Staubach, Aikmen, Griese, Stabler, Warner, Bradshaw, Montana, Young, Elway, Brady, Brees, Favre, Rodgers, and Manning did just enough while Unitas, Tarkenton, Kelly, Fouts, and Marino would come so close, but weren’t able to get the ultimate prize. HOF players like Rice, Czonka, Swan, Biletnikoff, Franco Harris, Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Dent, and Ray Lewis all earned SB MVP honors and all from winning teams. In fact only 1 player, Chuck Howley in 1972, won the MVP from a losing team. The NFL is littered with incredible performances from players on losing teams, but because the team lost, they were ALMOST legends. I admire winning football players. I’ve volunteered at many SB events over the years and met many players. This year I met Christian McCaffrey, Deshawn Watson, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Tiki Barber, Tony Gonzalez, Anthony Munoz, Saquon Barkley, Barry Sanders, but my favorite was Dallas Cowboy QB Roger Staubach, NFL royalty to me.
Tony started our message today with Seattle Seahawk RB Marshawn Lynch running in a TD with all the opposing players draped all over him, but he didn’t give up vs giving in and coming up short. Giving in would’ve caused him to ALMOST score. Spiritually we can give in to greed, anger, laziness, impurity, or pride. Is there anything we’re giving up because we keep giving in? In Genesis 25:24, in the story of Jacob and Esau, one brother gave in to a simple meal in exchange for a portion of his inheritance. It was a terrible trade, yet Esau gave in to his immediate feeling in exchange for something much more valuable and long-lasting. Giving up something great usually happens when we’re running on empty. Emptiness causes questionable choices. How often we choose the bad option right in front of us when God is hard to see. We need to be aware of the temptations to give up what we want now for the future rewards. Our salvation is the spiritual Super Bowl. It’s the game between the sheep and the goats, between the lights and the darknesses, between the bread and the stones, or the righteous vs the evil. We are offered these options daily and every day you can achieve a victory more important than any championship game.
So today almost all of America and many around the world will be watching TV this afternoon. Some watching for the athletic prowess, some watching for the commercials, some watching for the halftime show, and a few others just watching the Puppy Bowl. Tomorrow everyone will be talking about the play of Patrick Mahomes or Jimmy G. Some will be talking about J Lo or Shakira, and a few others might be talking about Fireball the poodle or Scruffy the schnauzer. There will be debates about what was the best commercial or who the MVP should’ve been. Whatever you may be watching today, just remember what’s most important. God owns the best team, the ultimate MVP is Jesus and he already won the championship, and we strive to be on THAT team and celebrate together. Instead of “I’m going to Disney World”, we prefer “Well done good and faithful servant”… Let’s keep our eye on the ball today. Happy Super Bowl Sunday everyone! Have a great week!