Feature

So Close But Yet So Favre

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I’ll confess. I watched more NFL football this year than the last five years combined. This was in part because I had more free time than I have in the past, but it’s also because it was a good year to be from Minnesota.

For four decades I’ve been a Vikings fan. I grew up with the Purple People Eaters and Fran Tarkenton. I’ve suffered through four Super Bowl defeats and (as of Sunday) five consecutive NFC Championship Game losses. I’ve watched Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers beat up on us season after season. I trained our children as toddlers to make a gagging sound at the mention of the Chicago Bears. I’ve watched us go through quarterbacks like used cars. Wherever we have lived, however, they have played, I’ve cheered on the Vikings.

So this year was extra enjoyable. Not only were we winning most games, but we were winning with our old nemesis, Brett, wearing our purple and horns. This was a good sight to see every week. The one who used to pick apart our defense was now commanding our offense. And, as every sports announcer has noted, Brett, at age 40, had the season of a lifetime.

One of Brett’s weaknesses through the years has been to try to do too much. He’s such a competitor that sometimes he tries to make more happen than he should. This has led to a fair number of interceptions throughout the years. But this year was different: the older, wiser Brett held onto the ball more often and threw only a handful of interceptions the entire season.

I haven’t heard any news reports yet, but my assumption is that Sunday will prove to be Brett’s last game. In his post-game statement, he said he was going to go home and talk to his family about it. And after the beating the Saints gave him Sunday, I’ve got to believe his wife is going to have an opinion. Brett proved whatever he needed to prove this year, and no matter how much he loves the game, I can’t see him coming back at age 41. Maybe I’m wrong. But it’s got to end sometime, and my guess is that it just ended.

This would mean, of course, that Brett’s final throw as an NFL quarterback was a game-destroying interception. With just seconds left in the game, with the score tied at 28 and Minnesota just within field-goal range, the Vikings ran one last play to try to pick up a few more yards to make the field goal more certain. One more play, a few yards, one kick from our reliable field-goal kicker and the Vikings were on the way to Super Bowl XLIV.

Brett rolled out to his right, threw across the field to his favorite receiver and was promptly picked off by a Saints defender. One coin toss and a few plays later, the Vikings’ season was over. It was a sudden and stunning finish to a sensational season for Brett and the whole team.

I don’t know how Brett thinks. But I know that for many of us, we would be haunted by that final pass. We would be tempted to have that one misguided throw overshadow the whole season. We’d replay it a thousand times in our minds while overlooking the thousands of great throws throughout our career.

Here’s my point: one mistake does not a season make or break. Brett, by every account and statistic, had a great season. It ended poorly, yes; but the single must not overshadow the whole.

This story really isn’t about Brett. It’s about you and me. It’s about our tendency to let one event, one mistake, one glaring error, one embarrassment, one “oops” to cast too long of a shadow on our lives. Yes, we blew it. No, we shouldn’t have responded that way. Yes, we were an idiot for a moment. It’s good to be honest with ourselves and own up to our errors, stupidity, sins or oversights. We all throw an interception now and then. We’re mortal.

I’m not justifying our bad behavior, but I am calling us to not let ourselves be defined by it. You are on a diet and you are doing fine but then have a “bad day.” Okay, pick back up again tomorrow. One day does not a diet make or break. You’ve been lovingly parenting those kids in your house. You’ve been a fairly consistent and supportive parent, but you lost it one day. You mishandled something or said words you regret. Acknowledge it. Confess it. But don’t be defined by it.

The condemnation of our own hearts and accusations of the enemy would have us believe that one single mistake can erase a whole season of good. Some people—struggling in their own issues of life—may hold us to this standard, but don’t hold yourself to it.

If you are in the game, you’ll throw an interception now and then. Don’t let it loom bigger in your mind than it should. Brett has a challenge this week—and for the rest of his life perhaps—to not let the single define the whole. My guess is that you and I do as well.

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