Life is Like American Football

By Natasha Foreman Bryant, MBA

Today in my Breaking Bread post I shared a prayer that used a football analogy, and I think that this conversation is appropriate to use outside of a spiritual or religious setting, to include our personal and professional lives, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs. So I’m sharing a significant excerpt from today’s post with you. I hope that in some way you see the connection that I’m attempting to achieve, and that you see the ways in which you can make those achievements in your life:

…Life is like football. I could use a chess or golf analogy, because they are also top notch strategic examples. I’m using football, because some people don’t realize that it’s a game of strategy, and in the U.S. it’s one of the sports we heavily promote our children into, without teaching them the fundamental connection between what they do on the field and how it relates to what they do off of the field.

Our life is the ultimate game of strategy. There are moves and counter moves, there are obstacles and barriers that we must overcome, and there are opportunities made available that allow for our success. But to gain those opportunities we must be patient with eyes and ears open, and we must constantly look at the “field” from numerous directions. Just like a chess board.

Just like a wild animal that waits for its prey. It doesn’t just get up and go out each day saying, “I’m going to do my own thing and find my food myself”. No, it waits for God to provide its food. It waits for the opportunity to present itself because it runs on limited energy and cannot afford to waste it walking and running around in numerous directions. It waits for the smell of prey that comes with the gush of wind. It waits to hear the movements of its prey coming through the grass, brush, and dirt.

We must realize and embrace God’s role in all of this, and especially in our lives. He opens up windows, doors, nooks, and crannies of opportunity for us, but we can only seize these moments if we’re paying attention, receptive, and cooperative. If not, the opportunity goes to someone else.

Consider an American football game.

A player from the defensive team causes the ball to fumble and hit the ground. The ball is now open for either team to capture and attempt to recover for their side. It’s an opportunity for the defense to take the ball and possibly run it in the opposite direction, score a touchdown, and earn points that could ultimately lead to victory. It’s an opportunity for the offense to recover the ball and either protect it until a referee blows their whistle, or it’s an opportunity to pick up the ball and continue running across the field to score a touch down, which was their initial objective.

Both teams have been given an opportunity to score points. What happens if no one is paying attention to the ball? What happens if you have the ball, lose the ball, have difficulty getting it, and no one else on your team is paying attention when you need help recovering the ball? Or, flipping sides, what happens if you see the ball, realize the opportunity that it represents, but your reaction time is too slow, or your team is non-responsive (or also slow to react)? What happens in each of these scenarios? You miss the opportunity and leave it open for someone else to seize and succeed.

God is preparing us to learn how to run with the ball, protect the ball, keep our eyes on the ball, and even how to recover the ball when it is dropped. Here’s my last football example…

Do you know why most defensive backs have lower conversion rates of intercepting a ball from the opposition? It’s because when they are only focused on the wide receiver from the other team, and not on the ball itself, their reaction time is slower running down the field. They are only focused on the other player, while the other player (the wide receiver) has his eyes focused on the ball. By the time the defensive back realizes where the ball is and reaches his arms up or out to catch it, he is already several tenths of a second behind the receiver, whose arms and hands are already stretched outward ready to receive the ball.

The best defensive backs in football learned how to patiently yet swiftly run, while constantly looking at the ball, and still skillfully checking the status of the receiver they were chasing down. They learned how to strategically place themselves between the receiver and the ball without causing what is called a, “pass interference” which is a violation and punishable by a penalty of yardage awarded to the other team. The best defensive backs learned to think like the patient wild animal, waiting for their food each day. The food that God provides.

We need to learn how to be patient, how to see the field, keep our eyes on the ball, while being aware of our surroundings, and then be ready to reach out and catch that ball—seizing and capitalizing on our opportunities, which results in our success.

So, what do you think? Are my football and wild animal analogies solid examples in your opinion? Can you see that even if you don’t believe in God, or don’t believe in His influence in you life, how you can see the importance of patience and strategy in seizing and capitalizing on opportunities?

Let me share with you some of the questions that I posed to my Breaking Bread audience. If you have a moment, I would love to read your responses:

1. How has today’s message changed your thinking about your life and the opportunities that are waiting for you?

2. What steps are you going to take to be more like the wild animal or the football player?

3. What can you do to be better at waiting, listening, watching, positioning yourself, observing your surroundings, and being better prepared to seize opportunities?


Copyright 2014. Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.

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