If you watched the NFC championship game last Sunday between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, you witnessed an amazing comeback by the Seahawks in the last few minutes of the game and overtime to make it again to the Super Bowl which they won last year against the Denver Broncos. After trailing 16-0 at halftime, Seattle fought back to trail by just 19-14 with 2:09 to play in the 4th quarter. They, of course, attempted an on-side kick as their only hope to get the ball back. What transpired has been the topic of discussion in the sports world since that play.
With receiver Jordy Nelson behind him on the “hands team,” Brandon Bostick was supposed to block a Seattle player coming into his area to clear space for Nelson to field the ball. Bostick decided instead to try to field the ball himself, but with disastrous results. The ball went through his hands and off his helmet and into the hands of Seattle’s Chris Matthews, setting the stage for the Seahawks’ go-ahead 50-yard touch-down drive that took just 44 seconds. Seattle was successful on its two-point conversion attempt, to make the score 22-19 in favor of the Seahawks with a little over a minute to play. Green Bay responded by marching down the field and tying the game with a 48-yard field goal, their 5th of the game, sending the game into overtime. Seattle won the toss and it didn’t take their offense long to put the ball into the end zone with a long pass from Russell Wilson to Jerome Kearse, winning the game 28-22 and heading for their second consecutive Super Bowl.
Brandon Bostik, of course, felt that the Packers’ loss was largely due to his failure to catch the on-side kick. He said, “There was a lot riding on the game, and I just feel like if I would have done my job—my assignment was to block—Jordy would have caught the ball and the game would have been over.” Brandon’s teammates did their best to console him. Players never like to say a game comes down to one play. “All of us screw up, all of us make mistakes,” said rookie center Corey Linsey. Special team captain, Randall Cobb, told Bostick, “There’s a bunch of plays we wish we could get back in that game.” But, your heart goes out to Brandon Bostik, who undoubtedly will have that play running over and over in his mind for a long time, as he plays the “If-Only” game. “If only I had just done my assignment and blocked for Jordy.” “If only I had hung on to the ball!” “If-Only”—that’s a game we have all played, for we have all made crucial mistakes. It’s just that Brandon’s was made before millions of viewers!
So how do you handle failure? We all experience it. How we deal with failure really determines what our future will be like. When R.A. Dickey, knuckle-ball pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, was finally called up to the majors after many years in the minor league, he got to pitch for the Texas Rangers and in his first game set a record by giving up six homeruns! But, he went on to win a Cy Young award just a few years later as he pitched for the New York Mets. He could have just decided he wasn’t cut out for the majors and given up but it just made him work harder to perfect his knuckleball. (Read his amazing story and his testimony of what God has done in his life in his autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up.) Someone said, “Failure is part of life—getting back up is living.” You can do nothing about your past failures but learn from them. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer wrote: “If my past is at fault for what I am today and the past cannot be changed, I am doomed to stay as I am.” Thomas Edison said, “To accomplish your goals, failure has to be viewed as part of the process.” Concerning his long struggle as an inventor, he said, “ I didn’t fail repeatedly; I merely found ten thousand ways not to make a light bulb!”
Babe Ruth, considered by many as the greatest baseball player of all time, failed to get a hit in almost two-thirds of his at-bats and struck out some 1,330 times, or about once for every 10 plate appearances! But, he didn’t give up baseball because he struck out a lot, in fact during his career (1914-1935), which included both pitching and hitting, he had 2,873 hits, including 714 homeruns, 136 triples and 506 doubles for a .690 slugging percentage, with 2213 RBI and a lifetime batting average of .342! I’m sure there were many times the “Babe” came to bat with an opportunity to win the game for the Yankees, and like “Mighty Casey,” he struck out. Was he, therefore a failure? Hardly!
Michael Jordan, one of the greatest players in NBA history, missed over half the shots he took from the field. Twenty-eight times he was given the ball at the end of a game with a chance to win it for his team and failed to do so. Was he, therefore a failure? NOT! He made 49.7 % of his field-goal attempts, 83.5% of his free-throw attempts, amassing a total of 32,292 points in his career (1984-2003). He was rookie of the year and a 14-time NBA all-star. He helped his team win six NBA championships, in five of which he was chosen MVP. Oh, yes, he also has two Olympic Gold medals in his collection! And by the way, Michael couldn’t make the varsity basketball team at Emsley A. Lamey High School in Willmington, North Carolina as a sophomore. At 5’11” he was deemed too short to play at that level. He played J.V. and had several 40-point games. He grew 4” that summer and played varsity his junior and senior years, averaging 20 points a game.
Numerous Bible characters who ended up spiritual giants of the faith also had major failures in their lives: Abraham (lying), Jacob (deceit and trickery), Moses (anger, murder), David (adultery, murder), Peter (pride, denial), for example. But, their failures weren’t final. Because of God’s grace, failure need never be final. “If we are faithless (i.e., if we fail), He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself” (II Tim. 2:13). Failure need be neither fatal or final, for God is a restoring God who picks us up where we are and gives us a new beginning “The steps of a good man are established by the LORD; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the LORD is the One who holds his hand” (Psa. 37:23,24). “The LORD sustains all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psa. 145:14). “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall” (Oliver Goldsmith).
So, did Brandon Bostick fail? Yes. Is he a failure? No. Because of using his talents, discipline and efforts, he helped his team make it to the NFC championship game. Hopefully, he will continue to play with confidence and contribute to his team’s success in the future. Florence Griffith Joyner, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, said, “You never fail until you stop trying.”
“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” (Thomas Edison).