It’s a super day to be a New England sports fan! What a crazy game! I am writing this column late because inspiration hit me on Friday that I should write about the big game. I did not know what direction the article would take, though. Was I going to write about how some teams are just naturally more dominant and there is no real competition? Was I going to write a David and Goliath type story where the seemingly underdog team comes out with its strongest skill and slays the giant dynasty? (Until the end of the third quarter, I was pretty sure that was the article I was going to be writing.) Or was I going to write an article about perseverance, about how we should never give up even when it seems like everything is going against us? Who knew it would be that kind of article?
I watched the first half of the game having no idea who I was watching. This was not my beloved New England football team who had been such a dominant force all season long. I could almost see the smirk on the commissioner’s face. I could feel the other 45-and-a-half states in the country singing, “Ding dong the witch is dead.” It was going to be one of those humbling nights that makes getting up for work on a Monday that much more difficult.
Then life began to change here in New England. In most situations in life, you can pinpoint that one moment when everything begins to change. In this case it was a fumble recovery that eventually led to a one-possession game. The air in Houston seemed to change. It was like it was fully inflated — as if it has always been fully inflated but some people just could not understand that. I could feel that revival of hope.
In the postgame interview, they asked one of the players how you mentally comeback from being down by 25, and he said that he and one of his teammates have a motto. It’s simply, “Just believe.” Simple words but a depth of meaning. Football and sports in general give us the ability to grow in strength and perseverance. We are given the visual of what “never give up” looks like.
We can apply this same attitude to our faith lives as well. Sometimes we are up in the game by 25 points and everything seems to be going our way and maybe we let up a little and think we have everything under control. Then we are blind-sided by a force that has seemed to be stronger than us for so long. Sometimes we are behind by 25 points and it seems like there is no getting out of the situation we are in. These are the moments when we need to “just believe.” These are also the moments when we need to learn to rely on those around us. We need to believe in the people God has put into our lives to help us cross those goal lines. He made us to be in community with one another. He made us to lean on each other and to come together.
Prior to the game, Pope Francis released a statement of the gift of sports competitions. He said, “Great sporting events like today’s Super Bowl are highly symbolic, showing that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace. By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest — and in a healthy way — we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules.” This super moment was a great opportunity for us to come together, regardless of which team we were rooting for, to understand that we can be from different places and have the same passion.
We can build a culture of encounter as the Holy Father says, a place where we spend time in companionship with one another. Let us strive to be more optimistic in our struggles, to rely more on others when we are down, to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, to never give up even when it seems like winning is a long shot, to stay positive when others speak negatively of us and to never let this game of life become so out of hand that we cannot climb back into the light of faith, love and friendship.
Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.