By Bob Hiller –
There I was, sitting next to my bride, in front of a beautiful, big screen in a friend’s backyard, watching with a sort of vindictive joy as the Patriots were getting creamed in the Super Bowl last Sunday. Then it came…that insufferable fourth quarter. You saw it, didn’t you? Tom Brady led his team back from nineteen points down to tie the game and led his team to a victory in overtime. Depending on who you talk to, it was either the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history or the greatest choke job. Either way, it was a pretty entertaining fourth quarter, even if the dark side won the day.
Listening to sports talk radio break down the game after the Super Bowl, you’d think that the football gods had come down to perform for us in New England uniforms and that we poor mortals would never again see the likes of such greatness. Some declared it the “one of greatest Super Bowls ever played!” Many have now begun to tout Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time. No coach holds a candle to Bill Belichick. I heard one commentator say: “We’ll never see a team dominate in a sport like this again.”
Right. Until next year. Then that Super Bowl will be the greatest game we’ve ever seen. The reality is that this wasn’t a “great” game. Maybe it was a great three quarters for the Falcons and then a great quarter plus overtime for the Patriots. But the overall football game wasn’t all that great to watch (apart from enjoying the Patriots losing) until the fourth quarter. Even then, Atlanta’s defense looked bad, and the Patriots took advantage. It was exciting and entertaining to a certain extent, but it was not a great game.
The reality is that we have seen sports greatness like the Patriots in the past, and we will see it again. Just think about the Celtics of the 1960s or the Yankees of almost every decade before 1980. We will see another player dominate like we’ve seen Brady do for the past few years. Brady is replacing Joe Montana in the greatest quarterback conversation, and someone will replace him in a decade or two. We’ll see more great Super Bowls in the future just as we’ve seen better in the past. (People who think this is among the great Super Bowls would do well to go back just two years and watch the Pats beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.) Belichick will go down with the great coaches, but a better one will come along.
So, why the all the hype? Why all the superlatives? Everyone wants to talk like we’ve witnessed something we’ll never see again. We want to play it up like no moment will ever match what we’ve just witnessed. Do we just want to boast that we were somehow witnesses? Do we fear that we’ll never see greatness again and try to revel in the moment? Maybe we are caught up in the moment with a sense of euphoria (alongside the media’s desire for easy headlines) that taints our perspective.
I am actually beginning to think that “being caught up in the moment” is becoming almost like a disease for our culture. Lately, it seems that we are so caught up in the moment that we have no historical perspective at all. Some will say we just had the worst president of all time; some will say he was the best. Our new president is either a messiah or the next Hitler (as Joel so astutely pointed out earlier this week). Either the moral state of our culture has never been as bad as it is now, or we are finally the enlightened ones who are making their way to a newfound ethical freedom. These are either the best of times or the worst of times, says Dickens. And it has never, ever, ever been better or worse than it is now.
CS Lewis somewhere speaks about chronological snobbery, saying that one of the problems with many academics is that they believe that because they have the newest idea, it must be better than the old ideas. They are caught up in their own time with no sense of perspective. I wonder if this isn’t part of the problem with much of our political and social rhetoric. For example, people who complain about the fascism of this or that president would do well to actually read about, you know, an actual fascist. We can be so caught up in fear of the moment that we forget to study the past and put our current situation in perspective. Obviously, tensions are high, and things might not be great in our country right now. But we aren’t the first to face troubles. Nor will we be the last. We can learn from our past how to deal with the troublesome days ahead. Theologically, we can learn to recognize the trouble for what it ultimately is, temporary and defeated. For some perspective, Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32)
Perhaps it would be good for all of us to take a breather and stop allowing superlative laden-media hype to drive our conversations. What we need is to hear the promise of Christ’s overcoming work to give us some perspective. His victory on Easter drives the attitude of the Christian in the troubled days. Things are bad, but they’ve been worse and will get worse again. Bu, one day they’ll be better for the Lord will make all things right on what will truly be the greatest day of all time…and eternity!