Mark Sanchez: A Veteran Has His Day

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The cover of this GQ Magazine is iconic. Mark Sanchez is now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles. And Michael Vick, the veteran QB who rewrote the book on comebacks, whom the Eagles signed in 2009 and let go this year, is now playing for the NY Jets. How ironic is that? But for now, we honor the veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Mark Travis John Sanchez just had the best game of his professional career, ever. A six-year veteran, he was unceremoniously released by the New York Jets at the end of last season after having shoulder surgery. With no love lost between the Jets and Sanchez, the onetime franchise Phenom with a Five Year, $50 million dollar contract became a free agent rummaging for a paying job. But that was then, and this is now.

On Veterans Day eve, this valuable veteran valedictorian led his new team (the Eagles Baby!) to a dominant 45-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. Sanchez finished with 20 completions on 37 attempts for 332 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Not too shabby for a belated, back-up, substitute, surrogate quarterback who apparently has more than a little left in the tank.

Veteran Mark Sanchez just taught us all another laudable lesson in how to play the game of life: “Don’t Give In, Don’t Give Out, and Don’t Give Up.”

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Veterans don’t give in and don’t give up. First, don’t give in to what the naysayers say or what the critics bray. Giving in simply means you’re giving up. What if all of the veterans who won wars and vanquished villains and bashed bastions were quick to throw in the towel and give up the fight?  That’s right; perish the thought.

Mark Sanchez has learned to the lesson of what not to give out. We must be discreet and discerning about what we give and what we share. Everyone doesn’t need a piece of your mind. Don’t give out accolades too soon or criticism too early, as was the case with Sanchez’s NFL debut in 2009.  The Jets and the New York fans and just about everyone else expected oh so much from the USC star fresh off a Rose Bowl win over Penn State. And then when he didn’t consistently produce, they threw him under the bus.

Veterans don’t wear out. While Sanchez was with the Jets, the press pushed and pressed and heaped and heaved much too much on the college kid who many said wasn’t ready to start in the NFL as a rookie. Nonetheless, in 2009 Sanchez led the Jets to the playoffs and the AFC Championship game AS A ROOKIE. And so the moral of the story is that you don’t get respect, you earn it. And as a veteran, Sanchez has certainly earned the respect of this Philly fan and the respect of all of the Philly Faithful, and the rest of the NFL as well. And don’t think the Jets aren’t wondering why they let him go.

Mark Sanchez just may be the comeback kid of the year. He may have been down, but he was not out. When he could only look up, he did not give up. When he was cut, he didn’t cut and run. He has no quit in him. And last night, he came back and played for his new team and led them like a wily veteran should. And he had fun doing it. Sanchez looked like he was having the time of his life.  Games are to be played, and if you can’t have fun playing, you might as well not play at all. 

So on this Veterans Day, we salute all of our valiant veterans in uniform on and off of the field.  We honor the spiritual veterans who are a part of the Church Triumphant who have finished fighting the good fight, like Dr. Myles Monroe and my dear ole dad, Chaplain Elmer Hunter. And we certainly honor the warriors who are still fighting and continue to fight, such as my mom, and Mom Pearl and Sam (my in-laws) in the church militant . 

And while we harbor and hug the veterans whose hands we now hold, it’s the warriors on the battle fields before our time and beyond our reach that we honor and praise and prize the most on this their day. 

 

. . . It’s How You Finish

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Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

Ecclesiastes 7:8, KJV

Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.  NLT

In 2012, the Philadelphia Eagles went 4-12 in Andy Reid’s final season as head coach. One year later, Charles “Chip” Kelly is the head coach and he totally turned the team around: the Eagles went from worst to first, and won the toughest division in the NFL.  The Eagles were like the eagle – in the end, they mounted up, and soared.

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The Eagles began the 2013 season 1-4, and lost Michael Vick, their mobile, franchise quarterback to injuries. The Eagles ended the season 7-1, and are much improved on defense AND can boast having the League’s rushing leader, Sean McCoy. In the end, the Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys, 24-22, and won the NFC East in the process. The turnaround happened in a year, in a blink. The reward is a home, wildcard playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field against the New Orleans Saints.

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  “It was an outstanding coaching job,” said owner Jeff Lurie, speaking of the Eagles’ head coach. “But I think the main thing was outstanding leadership, outstanding handling of an NFL team coming in, in every way — showing leadership, motivation, class at all times, understanding where the players are coming from, instituting a new offense and defense, hiring great people.”

The ragged start and the rising finish of my Eagles this season epitomized the axiom, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” and gave further proof to the Biblical truth professed by the wise and noble Solomon, the son of David, the preacher who penned these words: “Better is the end of a thing. . . ” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). 

It’s not how you start. “The text expresses the general principle or doctrine, that by the condition of our existence here, if things go right, a conclusion is better than a beginning. The fruit is better than the blossom; the reaping is better than the sowing; the enjoyment than the reaping; the second stage of a journey to the happy home is better than the first; the home itself than all; the victory is better than the march and the battle; the reward is better than the course of service; the ending in the highest improvement of means is better than being put at first in possession of them. In all this we see is conditionally, and not absolutely, that “the end is better than the beginning.” (John Foster, The Bible Illustrator OT).

So it’s absolutely how you finish. Don’t worry about those who seem to be ahead of you financially, socially, professionally, politically, or even spiritually. God is the one who keeps score.  He is the “One great scorer” (See “How You Play the Game, July 15th Blog):

When the One great scorer comes

To write about your name

He writes not that you won or lost

But how you played the game…

In the final analysis, God, the “One Great Scorer” writes how you play the game and how you finish the game.  Because it’s not how, or even where, you start – it’s how you finish. Good starts are great, and great starts are good, but not everyone can start fast. So do as Nelson Mandela did (December 6th Blog); forget about your start; focus on your finish, and finish the year strong.

Start Over!

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“I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:13-14, New Living Translation

Starting Over.  It’s something we all need to do.  Michael Vick’s story is one of new beginnings.  Yes, I am an Eagles (pronounced Iggles) fan.  Eagles all the way baby! But aside from my allegiance, I root for Michael Vick because his is truly a rags-to-riches back to rags and then to redemption story. Everybody, at some point in their life, needs a new beginning. Everybody can use a fresh start. So start over.  Start over today.

Summary and excerpts from the Book, Finally Free, by Michael Vick: An Autobiography, with Rodney Gardiner (Narrator), Tony Dungy (Foreword)

One of the most talented and polarizing athletes of our generation, Michael Vick’s stunning story has captured news headlines across the nation. From his poverty-stricken youth, to his success on the field in high school and college, to his rise to NFL stardom and his fall from grace, Finally Free shows how a gifted athlete’s life spiraled out of control under the glare of money and fame, aided by his own poor choices. In his own words, Vick details his regrets, his search for forgiveness, the moments of unlikely grace — and the brokenness that brought his redemption on the way to his celebrated return to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Michael shared with me how he had drifted away from the Christian faith in which his grandmother had raised him. I gave him a little advice that my Dad had passed on to me years ago.  ‘When you have a problem, don’t dwell on where you are but spend your energy thinking about how you’re going to make the situation better.’

Finally Free tells an amazing story.  It’s not all pretty, but it’s real.  If you’re like me – if you’ve ever done something in your life you wish you could take back – it will encourage you to learn that we serve a God of second chances. The story is not complete by any means, but this book will let you know why I’m so proud of Michael Vick and honored to call him a friend – because he has made the later chapters of his life better than the earlier ones.

And isn’t that what life’s all about?”

Tony Dungy