It’s Super Bowl time, and almost lost amidst the delightful tomfoolery of Deflate-gate, were comments made by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson after his team’s—in football terms, anyway—miraculous comeback win over the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in the NFC Championship game. Wilson, who with five minutes left in the contest had played atrociously, with four interceptions and not a single score (the lone Seattle touchdown to that point had been scored by the kicker on a genius fake-field goal in the third quarter), somehow led his team to three touchdowns in 8 minutes, stunning the Packers and their Wisconsin faithful. Afterward, Wilson—who is widely seen as one of the dullest interviews in sports—could be observed sobbing as he hugged his teammates, overcome with what had just happened.
Wilson, like many professional athletes, has been outspoken as a Christian throughout his career, and sure enough, his post-game interview featured a pointed shout-out. “God is so good all the time, man,” he said, with tears staining his face. Later, when someone asked him what it felt like to go from the worst game of his life to utter bliss in the span of eight minutes, Wilson thought for a moment and said, “That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special . . . I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”
Predictably, there were people who jumped on this comment, archly declaring that Wilson had blamed God for his four interceptions. Others took a more conventional tack. I was reminded of a sermon I heard once, in which the pastor told a story of an athlete who was careful to never thank God for touchdowns because then he’d have to blame him for fumbles, too. Sound theology, as far as I’m concerned. (As an aside, I cringe whenever athletes cross themselves or point to the sky after making a good play, but I’d love to see it happen after a strike out—talk about showing the courage of your convictions!)
But then I also thought of a moment I witnessed years ago—another post-game interview after an important football game, this time of the collegiate variety. It was 2010, and Alabama had just beaten Texas for the National Championship, throttled them, really, but that wasn’t what I remembered. What stuck with me was Colt McCoy, then the senior starting quarterback for Texas, who had spent virtually the entire game on the sideline with a shoulder injury after a fluke hit during Texas’ first series. He would say afterward that it was a normal hit, a hit he’d taken countless times in his football career. But this time, his arm had gone numb, and it simply hadn’t come back to life. It wasn’t painful, he later said; he just couldn’t feel the arm. So he was forced to stand on the sidelines and watch his team get dismantled without him. It was brutal, just absolutely unfair. Here was a guy who hadn’t missed a game in his entire four-year career, yet in the biggest game of his life, he could do nothing but stand helplessly by as his backup (a freshman, if memory serves) got carved up by Alabama’s defense. So anyway, that post-game interview:
“I’d have given everything I had to be out there with my team.” That killed me at the time. It still kinda does, watching it now.
Russell Wilson’s interview didn’t have quite the same effect. For one thing, his Seahawks won. For another, Wilson already has a Lombardi Trophy to his name. But his raw, overpowering emotion reminded me that, whether or not God causes interceptions, these games mean something. Happy Super Bowl, everybody.