I stayed up well beyond my bedtime last night to watch the Patriots play the Chiefs for the AFC conference final.

 There are very few things that would keep me up that late.  My personal preference is to cut a big slice out of the front end of the day rather than the back.  For me, there is more to get up for than to stay up for.

 I didn’t stay up because I am a fan of either team.

 This is a confession but for many years, being the perennial advocate for the underdog, I loved it when the Pats were beaten.  Didn’t matter who served them humble pie … I just enjoyed it when they lost. Every time there was some story about them being underhanded, I swallowed it whole and added my catcalls to the buzz of the crowd.  If you have followed football for long you know there are a host of people who enjoy sullying the success of this gridiron dynasty.

 We take those kinds of cheap shots regularly, at those who achieve what eludes us.  I really can only speak for myself but I am ashamed of that tendency, all too evident in my own life.

 It would be a crime to miss an opportunity to reference this tremendous quote:

 “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

 It is far too easy to be a critic.  Someone said, “Any jackass can tear down a barn but it takes a real carpenter to build one.”

 Last night was a strange experience.  Statistically, the Brady bunch were the underdogs.  I wasn’t staying up to see them defeated.  Deep in my heart I wanted them to win another trip to the Super Bowl.

 Things changed for me over deflate-gate.

 The criticism was so wide spread and overdone that I began to ask myself if it could possibly be so deserved.  Even the football commissioner seemed to have a personal vendetta.  Despite the disfavor, Belichick and the boys just seemed to quietly go about their winning business.

 That’s when I changed teams. 

 It’s not so much that I became a bona fide fan of the team but what they represented. They were a class act, favored on the field, long shots in the seats of the scornful (Psalm 1:1).

 I began to enjoy watching them play, appreciating their coaching and the collection of talent they assembled.  It didn’t even bother me when they beat my favored teams.

 So last night I was rooting for Tom, Bill & company

 The first half was great … no suspense.

 Second half was different. 

 At about 3 ½ minutes left in the game I went to bed.  Pats had just regained the seesaw lead.  I went to bed for fear that they would lose.  I didn’t want to take that disappointment to sleep.  Before heading upstairs I told my wife, “I don’t think I’ll be interested in watching the Superbowl if the Pats aren’t in it.”  I had no particular interest in the Rams or the Chiefs as combatants in the defining game of the season.

 In the middle of the night returning from the bathroom, she told me, “They won!” It is against my nature to cheer out loud but I was celebrating deep inside.

 Now I am a preacher and everything is sermon fodder.  As my father-in-law used to say, “That dog will hunt.”

 So many takeaways …

  •  Losers love to diminish winners. I don’t want to be like that.  I want to have eyes to see and appreciate what others do well.  I want to do a few things well myself.
  • You can’t count on luck. There were good and bad calls last night.  The team that deserved to win, won.  Someone said that luck and hard work are directly proportional.
  • There is nothing so admirable as sustained success. It is a testament to substance over perception.  What we are emerges in the long run.  The world is full of 100 yd. dash people but the marathoner is a different breed.  Being behind at a point is of no consequence to the well-trained distance runner.  He knows his pace.  He calculates his reserves, waiting for just the right moment to spend what is left.  I have seen Tom Brady play more football in the last two minutes of a game than others play in 60.

 In just about two weeks, they will square off, Patriots and Rams.  People don’t deserve to win just because they haven’t. They deserve to win because they have.

 I’ll be enthusiastically cheering for a 41-year-old quarterback and the team that has owned football for so many years.  Don’t fool yourself … there will be many others watching for the same reason.

— Karl