In honor of the Super Bowl we present some life lessons to be gleaned from the game of football. [The first three are based on the lecture of Dr. Yitzy Schechter for the YU Halftime show 2013—Super Bowl XLVII]
1. No game requires as much of a team effort as football. The quarterback needs the linesmen to give him space so that he can find the wide receiver. Every player has his role to play and without each role being fulfilled, the team cannot hope for victory. In our personal and familial lives as well as being members of Klal Yisroel, each of us has a unique role that we must play. Everyone is valuable and no one is dispensable.
2. The only thing that matters is the line of scrimmage—where the play is happening right now! Rav Dessler explains that a person’s nekudas habechira, the point where one is challenged and has the prerogative of how to exercise his free will, is different for every person. What is a struggle for one person may not be a struggle for another. More significantly, every individual’s own nekudas hebechira is constantly changing. What may have been a tremendous challenge for a person one day may no longer be a challenge for him the next day. Our spiritual line of scrimmage is ever-changing, and we must move with it to embrace the challenge wherever it appears.
3. You’re never too far away from a first down! You may be way downfield with the odds stacked heavily against you, even as the clock is winding down. But you’re sole focus needs to be on moving the ball another ten yards. The objective is to get a first down, and then another first down, and then another. We can’t try to grab too much at once. Even when a person slips up and has “lost his footage,” he should never throw in the towel. As long as the clock is still ticking there is still hope.
On February 3, 2008, with less than two minutes to play in Super Bowl XLII, the underdog New York Giants were trailing the heavily favored, undefeated New England Patriots, 14-10. On third and 5 at the Giants 44-yard line, Giant’s quarterback Eli Manning took the snap and was immediately under pressure. He was grabbed by the shoulder and by his back and was almost thrown down for a sack. Somehow he managed to stay on his feet and duck under the arms of another defender before he threw the ball downfield. Immediately after launching the ball, Manning was thrown down. Had Manning been sacked the Giants would have faced fourth and 8, and would have been forced to convert to keep any chance of winning alive.
Thirty-two yards downfield, David Tyree, who seldom was used as a receiver, caught Manning’s incredible throw with both hands. Though it was swiped away by a defender, Tyree held the ball against his helmet for the completion, giving the Giants a first down and a chance to score the game-winning touchdown.
Even in a person’s worst moments when he feels utterly beaten, as long as he doesn’t surrender, he is still in the game and has a chance to come back!
Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, Guidance Counselor and fifth-grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, as well as a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He also presents parenting classes based on the acclaimed Love and Logic methods. His email address is [email protected] His website is www.stamtorah.info.
By Dani Staum