“Try, Try Again”

Elway and Manning

Peter messed up, not once nor twice. He failed and the failure was not private, but public, for all the world to see. He put his foot in his mouth more times than he’d like to admit (and so have you and I). He was a rough-neck, loud mouth, think second-act first kind of guy who needed to repent more times than he wanted to. 

Consider the dark side of Peter’s resume: he rebuked Jesus, then went on to tell the Lord that he would never allow him to wash his feet; he cut off the ear of a soldier (he wasn’t aiming for his ear); he denied he even knew Jesus, and cussed a soldier out to prove it; then, to top it all off, he went back to fishing even after the resurrection. Through it all, Peter did not quit, but he got back up and tried again.

Jesus corrected Peter time and again.  Jesus also told him to repent more times than the law allowed.  Remember, Peter’s the one who asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his neighbor.  It’s not that he didn’t want to forgive; it’s just that he thought that there should be a limit on forgiveness.  And so do we.  Peter is the poster child for the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

And so was John Elway.  With all of this early season talk of Peyton Manning (the best comeback quarterback ever? We’ll see . . .) and the Broncos being Super Bowl-bound, let’s revisit the first Denver quarterback who persevered and overcame setback after setback and disappointment after disappointment.  John Elway knew the importance of the words “try, try again.”

Elway recorded the most victories by a starting quarterback at the time of his retirement. He retired in 1999 and statistically was the second most prolific passer in NFL history. Elway led his teams to six AFC Championship Games and five Super Bowls, winning his last two.  Yet before he won two Super Bowls, he lost three.  Denver won their first Super Bowl title by defeating the Green Bay Packers 31–24 in Super Bowl XXXII.  With the score tied at 17-17, there was 3rd down play late in the game that is most memorable.

“Playing with the desperation of a man who knew he was nearer to the end of his career than the beginning, John Elway authored one of the most memorable moments in Super Bowl history with an all-out effort for a first down in Super Bowl XXXII. With his team even with Brett Favre’s Packers, 17-17, deep into the third quarter and facing a 3rd-and-6 situation at the Packers’ 12-yard line, the Broncos’ 37-year-old quarterback dove — only to be hit and spun around like a top while in the air — for a few precious yards rather than taking the path of less resistance out-of-bounds. With a fresh set of downs to work with, the Broncos would take the lead two plays later.

“We never felt so much energy after John ran like he did, refusing to go out bounds, absorbing that hit like he did,” Broncos defensive lineman Mike Lodish later told ESPN. “When I saw that, I just shook my head and said, ‘That’s some kind of leader.’ We were energized beyond control. After John’s run, we knew we were going to be Super Bowl champions. Finally.”  Elway learned the lesson: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

And so we too, like Peter and Elway, must learn the lesson of the children’s nursery rhyme:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again;
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For, if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear;
Try, try again.

Once or twice though you should fail,
Try, try again;
If you would at last prevail,
Try, try again;
If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again.

Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again.
All that other folks can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view;
Try, try again.”

–Anonymous

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