Sports and martial arts contain so many metaphors about what it takes to succeed – that anyone who completely ignores them is truly missing the boat.
When I was in high school, a doctor friend of the family said, “I think you learn MORE from sports than you do from sitting in the classroom.”
He was right.
And yesterday’s NFC title game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals contained several examples of what makes a winner – and what leads to losing.
First, to win, it is NOT the first effort that usually gets the job done. It’s the second and third and fourth efforts. This was readily apparent in the play of Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He may have longer hair than the rest; he may cut his sleeves a bit higher than most; he may go without thigh and knee pads – but when he catches the ball, you can count on him NOT stopping when hit once. The first time he scored he was hit three times – yet he bounced off each hit and found a way into the end zone.
My friend, THAT is what it takes to win. No matter what you’re doing in life – watch Fitzgerald keep fighting and do the same thing. Never give up at the first sign of trouble or defeat. Keep on keeping on and you’ll be amazed at how many people let up because they expected YOU to stop.
Second, celebrating victory is fine. But be very, very careful about celebrating BEFORE victory. When I watch Donovan McNabb play, I cringe when I see him getting cocky after running for a first down in the first quarter. Dude, you’ve got 3+ quarters to go, and you’re already acting like it’s a done deal. Bad move.
Naturally, the NFL is filled with idiots who showboat whenever they make a great play. They do this, in part, in the hopes of securing a spot in the media upon retirement – and in part because they lack humility. But it’s a dangerous practice that screams, “me, me, me” rather than “team, team, team.”
A week ago, McNabb ran out of bounds against the Giants. He danced before one of the Giants coaches – then picked up the team phone on their sideline. Bad move. Dumb move. And this is precisely the sort of antics that have led to him being a perennial choker.
Third, never let up once you take the lead. The Eagles rallied in the second half, scoring three touchdowns in less than ten minutes. They took the lead by one point, 25-24.
My son wondered if the Cardinals could come back because the Eagles had shut them down the whole second half.
I said: “Often times a team uses all of its energy to catch up or take the lead, and once they do, they let up again.”
This is precisely what happened in the final ten minutes of the game. The Cardinals drove down the field, controlling the time and the ball – and scored a critical touchdown and 2-pt. conversion.
Even so, they did not celebrate like the game was over. There would be plenty of time for that AFTER the game.
Even though I wasn’t a fan of any of the four remaining teams yesterday – I am NOW. And so I’ll be attending Super Bowl XLIII with my son in another 12 days. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Which jersey will I be wearing.
Perhaps Larry Fitzgeralds’ # 11.
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