Don’t Give The Game Away


Did You See The Game? I did.

I watched the Michigan / Ohio State game yesterday. If you missed it, you missed a treat. It was a great win and a horrible loss both at the same time. Yes, it was a great win for Ohio State to come from behind and beat their archrivals 30 -27 in DOUBLE OT, at home, again. And it was a horrible, almost unspeakable loss.

One sportswriter put it this way:

“There is simply too much pain to process. Losing to Ohio State? Losing in double overtime? Losing with some controversy? Losing the Big Ten East Division? Losing a shot at the Playoff? It’s almost overwhelming. Michigan will bounce back under Jim Harbaugh — and very likely be right there for the 2017 national title — but this loss will sting all offseason. Then again, maybe there’s room for Michigan to make a national semifinal in 2016?”

Michigan had the game in the bag. I mean the game was won and the Michigan Quarterback Wilton Speight and the referees game it away. Yes it was a great game because it had everything: it had defense and turnovers and missed field goals and a pick-six and fourth and inches and a first down controversy in double overtime.

If you didn’t catch yesterday’s game, you missed one of the best regular season college games in college football history Michigan, the better team, had Ohio State on the ropes for most of the game, then choose to gift the game back to the Buckeyes down the stretch. Ohio State wouldn’t have even been in the game had it not been for the interceptions that the Michigan QB gave them. Wow.

Coach Jim Harbaugh has every right to be mad, but the first person he needs to be mad with is himself. He lost his cool and it cost his team five critical yards late in the game when the defense needed to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone. They did not.

We lead by example. A long time ago someone said, monkey see, monkey do. And the team saw their coach lose his composure, and then they went on to lose the game in typical Michigan, meltdown fashion (the Wolverines have lost five straight to Ohio State at the Horseshoe).

“Outrageous,” Harbaugh said at one point, describing the officiating that he thought cost his Wolverines the game at Ohio State Saturday afternoon. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you handle a brutal loss when you speak to the public. What matters is what you show them. Harbaugh didn’t show much grace.

His senior defensive lineman, however, Chris Wormley, did. “There’s a few calls that I thought could go either way,” he said. “You’ve got to play through those types of calls, handle adversity.” Yes, you do.

And so the lesson is almost lyrical: you may lose and you may fail and you may suffer loss, but don’t give it away. Don’t lose your cool or lose your head or lose your composure. Your opponent may try to grab it or seize it or snatch it or even steal it, but DO NOT give it away.  And that’s just what the Michigan coach and the Michigan team did yesterday.


You Need To Bounce Back


In the NFL, a yellow flag thrown by a referee during or after a play signifies and symbolizes a penalty. Most times, and more often than not, the penalty is deserved. Yet there are the occasional occasions which warrant a second look, and in the end, there really wasn’t an infraction on the play after all. Most of the time, the refs get it right. However, sometimes the referees get it wrong.  And that’s when we players need to learn how to survive a bad call. And that’s the time we all need to learn how to bounce back.  

In all sports, but especially the professional game of football (USA football, that is), a bad call or even a missed call can change the course of a game. Sometimes it’s not a call but it’s a fall; it’s something we did wrong or missed or messed up. Sometimes. In those cases, players and people need to determine that they will survive in spite of it all. I call it bounce-back-ability.

In the game of life, we need to learn how to survive bad, baseless and botched calls. We like to blame the refs but sometimes we have no one to blame but ourselves. Take it from me. I have learned and continue to lean the art of bounce-back-ability.

I first learned to bounce back when I ran track in high school.  Because I was the only high-hurdler on the team, I ran the 110-meter hurdles out of necessity.  The last track meet of senior year was the Penn Jersey Conference Championships.  My father, who had never witnessed any of my meets, was able to attend this one. 

The race was called the start was clean.  But at the eighth or ninth hurdle, I banged elbows with the runner next to me.  The collision set off a chain reaction.   I crashed into the next hurdle and down I went, taking a few other runners with me.

Looking back, an onlooker who wanted to mix sports metaphors could have screamed, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” (The immortal words of Howard Cosell.) Anyway, the picture was as unsightly as a train wreck.  Disappointed, dashed and deflated, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and went to sulk on the other side of the track.  Soon, after a huddling of coaches and officials, the decision was made to run the race over, with no penalties to any runner.   I was relieved when my coach came jogging over to relay the news.

My storybook, comeback ending is this: I won the race, and was honored to be First Team – All Conference. Finishing first, my last race was my best one, and the only one my father saw me run.  I was glad to make my Dad proud.

Looking back, I often use this race as inspiration for life.  How many times have I stumbled and inadvertently caused others to fall, but yet I was given a second chance?  (Too many to tell here!) After each fall, each miss-step and each mistake, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over again. I call it “bounce-back-ability:” It’s the ability to get back up and keep it moving.

We should live with the knowledge that we can indeed bounce back. We can pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, and we can make “Dad” proud by enduring trials, temptations and utter collapses. Our Heavenly Father is not looking down with anger or disdain; He loves us and wants the best for us. He is there cheering us on and encouraging us to bounce back; to get back up and get back in the game and try, try again.