I heard a very interesting topic discussed a few weeks ago on one of my favorite NFL podcasts. The meaninglessness of sports was brought up as a side note in a discussion about the week’s games. It is a topic that I have pondered often, even though I clearly love sports. I get inside my own head too much and think of life in a broad sense. If you do the same thing, then you know that sports are indeed meaningless. Most activities are, since we will all eventually die and most of what we did won’t matter much. Sorry for the gloom and doom, but stick with me here.
I enjoy football as much as any entertainment option, but I try to not get caught up in one team’s fortunes. I realize that win or lose, my life won’t change much with their win loss record. That doesn’t keep me from being fully engaged in the games, it just keeps me from acting a fool like some fans. Grown men crying in the stands because their college team loses. Drunk fans fighting each other at NFL stadiums. Stuff like that is ridiculous. As I said, sports are ultimately meaningless in the big picture.
Here comes the however. If you saw the Seattle and Green Bay game this past Sunday, you witnessed something very special. The Seahawks came from way down in the game to get the win in dramatic fashion. They were being beaten the entire game and only took the lead with about a minute and a half left to play. They battled and finally won the game in overtime after looking horrible most of the game. Their quarterback Russell Wilson had his worst game ever. He sucked to put it nicely. He would agree with my assessment by the way. However, he stood victorious after the game, sobbing as he was interviewed by Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews. The man was overcome with emotion at what he and his team had just accomplished. They came back from what was sure defeat, to be champions of their conference. They experienced victory in the fashion that Rocky type movies try to emulate.
As I watched Russell Wilson’s post game interview, tears rolling down his eye black, I got real goosebumps. I was happy for the man and his team. I was able to share in his joy at that moment. Keep in mind I was not rooting for the Seahawks nor the Packers. I wanted to see a great game, that is all. But to see a grown man who is paid lots of money to play a game just break down on national TV because he was simply overcome with happiness made me happy as well.
The other side of the coin was the Packers, who suffered an awful defeat when they were the better team most of the day. I know there were tears from those grown men for opposite reasons from Wilson’s. There is some meaning and lessons to be had from their fate as well though.
After this game the world as a whole was not changed. Many unfortunate kids still had cancer. Lots of families did without a proper meal. Some of our fellow human beings slept under a cold bridge as we laid in a warm bed. The world turned as it always has. This one football game did not make the world a better place unfortunately. That does not make it meaningless though.
The game had meaning for me. And I know it meant something to many others as well. I’m not talking about all the rabid Seattle fans either. Of course they were happy for the win and should be. But the comeback by Russell Wilson and his team showed us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity. When things look the darkest, you can still keep going and have hope.
Not giving up is a victory in itself. I’ve seen tons of games where teams were beat down the entire game but kept fighting even though they never quite made it back for the win. Troy Aikman and the Cowboys come to mind in the 1994 NFC Title Game that they lost to San Francisco. I hated the Cowboys, but could not help but respect how the defending Super Bowl Champions would not go away quietly, even after being down 31-14 at the half. They lost in the end, but fought like hell until the final second. There was meaning in their struggle.
The Seahawks comeback and Russell Wilson’s emotional reaction as Andrews interviewed him should be a lesson for many jaded fans that criticize pro athletes. Sure they make a ton of money, but they care about the games clearly. They are competitive athletes and no matter the size of their game checks, there is a level of pride that keeps a fire burning inside them. If Seattle only cared about their salaries, they wouldn’t have spent all that effort after being down by 16 points.
On Monday morning after the Seattle win I got up and went to work like most folks. It was a normal day. World peace did not materialize because Russell Wilson and his team made a historic comeback in a football game. But in the three and half hours I spent watching the NFC Title Game, I watched a meaningful event. I watched the underdog Packers punch the favored Seahawks in the face and gain control of the game. That took a team effort and a competitive spirit. I then witnessed the Seahawks gather themselves after hardly anything went right all day and mount a furious comeback. They showed me what not quitting looks like. It’s easy to tell our kids that they should never give up, but those words cannot resonate like the visual display that Seattle put out there for the world. Not giving up earned them a trip to the Super Bowl. No person could have watched that game and not been inspired. Impossible.
I try not to get too jaded about sports. With all kinds of off-the-field issues that is hard to do sometimes. Luckily there are events like the NFC Title Game to erase some of that negativity now and then. In one hundred years most of us who witnessed that epic comeback won’t even be here to tell anyone about it. But on that Sunday, the meaning was undeniable for anyone watching or involved in the game. Seattle gave many people hope for the next day. Maybe someone got inspired to start a new business or join a gym to lose some weight. Maybe a kid decided not to drop out of school. Maybe it just made some people cry for joyful reasons for the first time in a while. Maybe it just gave some people goosebumps like I got. Events that provide goosebumps are never meaningless.