In one play, Super Bowl Sunday went from triumph to tragedy for Seahawks fans. Instead of a parade and celebration, we are forced to analyze a moment. While this is torture for fans, it is increasingly more excruciating for the team; to be that close, to work so hard, only to have it taken away at the last moment. This hangs most heavily on the coaching staff, especially the man at the helm: Pete Carroll. In this context, with many calling the last play: ‘the worst play call in Super Bowl history’, Pete Carroll tweets this out:
One moment does not define you; the journey does. We will outlast this.
This may seem like someone trying to downplay his own mistake or trying to show that the glass is half full to fans who are finding it completely empty, but if you know Pete Carroll, this is simply him. This isn’t saying the right thing; it’s what he truly believes. As a pastor, someone tasked with leading the church, I think Pete Carroll’s approach to football has something to teach us about how to apply biblical principles to life. Let me show you what I mean:
ALWAYS COMPETE | Let’s make sure we’re focused right now. These are great opportunities today. Prepare to be great today. It’s simple, really: Be great right now so that you can be great later on.
This has become Pete Carroll’s mantra; his carpe diem. It isn’t the declaration of seize the moment that stands out, but how he applies it. In our culture, seize the moment has become YOLO (you only live once), don’t let the moment pass without squeezing everything you can out of it. The moment is a commodity to be consumed.
When Carroll talks about the moment he refers to it as an opportunity. This is much more akin to the biblical concept of faithfulness. It is about every moment being the chance to choose your desire or to choose what is good, true, and better for you. This is summed up best by Jesus who said: deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me (Luke 9.23). This following is never just about the moment, but is about developing habits and being changed for the future. What you do in the little moments will prepare you for the big ones. Faithfulness in the Christian life is seeing every moment as an opportunity to serve God and allowing Him to transform you little by little.
TRUST WHAT YOU KNOW | When you know who you are and things don’t go right, it’s really easy to be resilient by going back to the truth.
We often allow our situations to determine truth; what we experience determines what we believe. Our beliefs are constantly changing based on what we go through.
Pete Carroll gives beliefs a more prominent role. He says that if you know truth, then when things don’t go your way, it doesn’t require you to change the truth. Instead, your response is to allow the truth to define the situation. This is what allows him to bounce back from a crushing defeat, that play call doesn’t define him.
The Bible gives us the same call: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3.16), allowing the truth of Jesus to be what corrects us and gives us identity. Trust in what we know allows us to weather the unknowns, and even to see trails as working to develop perseverance (James 1.2-4). Approaching the world this way allows you to be changed by the truth, rather than by the fickleness of situation.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY | I’m not going to make any excuses for any part of this. I’m going to continue to take responsibility for that. I’m not going to point the finger at somebody else. I’m the one who has to continue to get this done.
This world is full of excuses. They often exist because of the fear of being found out. If your hope is in your ability to prove yourself, then any flaw or question of your ability (why would you throw a pass?) becomes something you must distance yourself from.
Pete Carrol’s understanding of failure (as a man with a long career of both victories and losses) allows him to embrace his mistakes. There is no reason to be afraid of being wrong, because his worldview already accepts this as both inevitable and profitable.
The Bible tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus (Romans 8.1) and that we have been freed from the slavery of performance (Galatians 5.1). There is no shame in messing up, as a matter of fact, our failure is a magnification of God’s grace. It is as sinners that He loves us (Romans 5.8). This doesn’t mean we run headlong into failure (Romans 6.1-2); we do everything to avoid it, but when it happens, we are not surprised or overcome by it. It is simply life. We take responsibility and move forward.
DON’T FORGET YOUR FLAWS | It’s a great illustration once again that no matter how good you are, you can’t perform if you keep killing yourself. I’m really disappointed.
The failures in life don’t have to be defining, but we also never assume that we are beyond failure. Having the best team on the field does not mean that you will win the game, because even the best players make mistakes. This was the story of the Super Bowl.
What leads us into sin and failure is often the belief that we are above it. The Bible tells us: Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16.18). While believing in yourself is important, acknowledging your weaknesses is necessary as well. In a world full of self-esteem and self-worthiness, we need to be reminded that we are sinners. This helps us both when we struggle, but it is also necessary for us to be gracious with others when they do.
SEE PEOPLE FOR WHO THEY ARE | Looking at him, last year to this year, you can see the maturity in the throwing game and his decision-making and all of that.
While this quote may seem innocuous, it fits something that Pete Carroll has shown in how he deals with his players. He sees what they do well rather than where they don’t fit. Whether this is drafting a edge rusher who seems too small for the NFL (Bruce Irvin), a sub-six foot quarterback, or putting up with the nuance of Beast Mode, Carroll is drawn to people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.
The tendency of scouts is to have an idea of what a prototypical player looks like at each position to measure each player against. Pete says: what can this player do for our team and allows that to determine their value. Players love to play for him because they can be themselves.
The Biblical view of the Christian is not as formulaic as we often make it. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 (among others) tell us that the church is like a body, with different parts that excel in different ways. Even basic biological knowledge, tells us that a heart would be useless as a finger and an eye could not replace a hand. 1 Corinthians 12 goes on to use this as a lens by which we should view others, as people gifted in different ways, brought together to function as a whole. The Seahawks roster is a reflection of the local church (kind of).
This isn’t to say that God loves the Seahawks more than the other 31 teams or that Pete Carroll is a devout Christian (he may be, I just don’t know). What it does reveal is that the principles of the Christianity are much more than rules to follow of facts to believe; it is a robust life-system that is beneficial in all areas of life. Living out the Christian life, applying Biblical principles may not lead you into back to back Super Bowls, but it will keep your from desperation and depression when things don’t go your way.