This weekend we will get a bit of respite from the chaos and craziness each day’s headlines have been bringing for the past weeks. All the protests, flag-burning and revolutionary activity designed to undermine our national confidence in the electoral system will have to take a back seat.
For a short period, the whining and complaining and downright annoying displays of hubris will fall away under the bright lights of the Granddaddy of all contests … the Super Bowl of American football.
Since September we have watched the titans of pigskin power battle one another in stadiums filled with rabid and raucous fans. Many courageous men have fallen, their bones, bodies and brains crushed under the weight of equally powerful men who believe consuming 20,000 calories a day is essential.
And little wonder. The game compels mountainous men to run at full steam, helmeted heads lowered, directly into one another so a leathery oval-shaped, air-filled (or deflated?) sack can be advanced toward the line to gain.
And the fans go crazy at every turn, waiting through the seemingly interminable inaction of the huddle to once again witness an exhilarating eight seconds of carefully planned bedlam. Bodies fly through the air amid the grunts and groans and trash talk of the players in an almost unbelievable display of competitive animosity.
Yet what plays out on the field of battle is in stark contrast to the respect-filled relationships these hardened veterans of the gridiron engage in after the final whistle.
Their competitive differences not withstanding, when the game ends they form a sacred fraternal of men whose mutual respect as combatants far outweighs the final score.
And if ever our nation needs to watch and learn from a football game, it’s now.
Regardless of how the game between the Falcons and the Patriots ends, here’s what you won’t see.
You won’t see the losing team igniting protests around the country. You won’t see them attempting to get the NFL to vacate the winners’ championship.
You won’t see the losing team scheming to blockade the streets that make up the champion’s parade route through their home town. And you won’t see their stars and their celebrity fans continuing to barrage the nation with mean-spirited, crude, and inane accusations and insults.
But to be fair, you also won’t see the winning team acting like children, ridiculing their vanquished opponents, or staining their win with unprofessional tirades.
You won’t see them lashing out at those already devastated by the outcome who wonder if losing will mean hard times for their team. And you certainly won’t see the champions responding like immature rookies to those who attempt to salve their own hurts by deprecating the winning effort.
What you will see are professionals – veterans of the battle – showing respect and honor to all who valiantly gave their all to win the day. You will see beaten and bloodied men approach their opponents to shake hands, exchange hugs, and even kneel in prayer together.
What you will see is a bedrock American ethic etched on these men’s souls and embodied in their mutual understanding that neither winning nor losing are finished until they are validated through honor.
So, watch the game and cheer vociferously for your team. Gather the kids around and eat all that tastes good while being bad. But when all is done, and only the final score remains, re-learn the important lesson upon which ordered society stands or falls.
We are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And then pray for our national leaders, and so many of our fellow-countrymen, who need to learn what the men of football already know, and model the dignity and respect for the game I am sure they will display when all is said and done.
Go, Patriots! Go, Falcons! But mostly, Go Americans!