Today, at 41 years old and a month away from turning 42, I would like to share about 43. No, not my age but two class acts! Over the years, I have witnessed something early on and its something I hope to live and leave. Some things are taught but the best things are caught. However, we can also learn a valuable lesson when we or another “drop the ball” or in this case miss the kick.
In case you are related to Rip Van Winkle and slept missing arguably the greatest college football game in modern history you would know what transpired recently in the Alabama vs Auburn rivalry. For starters, Nick Saban and his team rarely lose but have now lost twice recently to their arch rivals. After already missing a couple field goals opposed to the ‘Hail Mary’ the legendary coach sent his field goal unit out to attempt a FIFTY SEVEN yard kick to win the game. With a second remaining even the commentators were surprised to see them setting up to kick opposed to throw deep or take a knee. Alabama’s kicker, Cade Foster is number 43 for the reigning national champions. In case you missed it check this video out below.
Despite giving it his best effort or “college try” as some would say the unthinkable happened. The other team, with a newer coach without legendary status on this play was more prepared and sent a player in the endzone just in case he missed. What are the odds? Missing it – pretty good (even NFL kickers would struggle with that) but for the ball to actually fall short into an awaiting player hands is just shy of being hit by lightening. Keep in mind the endzone is SIXTY yards wide and couple those odds with the fact that he was prepared to field it as if a punt return only to run 109 yards for a touch down was nothing short of winning Maryland’s recent Mega Million lottery! In this case, lightening struck twice and Alabama went from “ROLL TIDE” to unfortunatey roll tears and the Auburn Tigers won. Cue up the “ROCKY III” soundtrack now because on that night Auburn had Alabama’s number and like tunnel vision “Eye of the Tiger.”
Despite residing in Maryland, I pull for Alabama and blessed to call several of their past national championship team players and their families as friends while serving on the board with Tuscalossa’s based PRAISEFEST MINISTRIES “Cruise with a Cause.” That night following the game, I called my buddy, Evangelist Randy Hogue of Cullman, Alabama who LOVES Auburn and immediately he hit me with this joke: “Frank, what does an Auburn fan say to any request of an Alabama fan?” I said: “No idea.” He replied laughing, “Give me ONE SECOND!” Nothing like encouragement after a loss! LOL 🙂
All that was the back story but this is what transpired next. Fights broke out, one Alabama “fan” watching the game with friends at home was so distraught that she picked up a loaded firearm and shot and killed another because she didn’t think in her estimation that she was a “true fan.” God helps us. Then for the next couple days (non-stop) they attacked the poor kicker who missed. First, how many of the critics under that pressure with multiplied millions watching would have made it much less on a empty field with nobody but God in Heaven and a field goal post on Earth. Very few!
Secondly, some went to Twitter and personally called out and attacked the kicker verbally. One said: “Drink Bleach,” another said, “Go kill yourself,” while one tweeted, “I know where you live and I am coming over to kill you!” Wow!! All this over a game!! This is where you can insert “Get a life!!!” Not to the kicker who missed the field goal but so many of us who missed the point. Anyone can be a critic but it takes class to create and complete a task at hand. Personally, until we can kick a fifty yarder through the uprights we don’t deserve to criticize. Ironically, those that can actually in most cases refrain from doing so.
You have heard of the expression, “The Good, Bad and Ugly” but today I gave it to you in reverse order. I shared the ugly first (murder is worse than slander but not by much) and then the bad but now saved the best (good) for last. Out of all the hate mail, barrage of negativity, constant criticism out of nowhere came hope and encouragement. The former leader of the free world, President George W Bush (43) reached out to the kicker (43) who missed the big kick. It is amazing what one kind word, letter of encouragement or a proverbial pat on the back can do for someone down and out. Regardless of your politics, it was a class act for the president to reach out.
Notice, the date of the letter. He penned it not long after the game. When you have a chance to encourage you shouldn’t wait forever to do it because they need it now not next year. Plus, their tomorrow may not come. A well known pastor from Florida recently committed suicide this week. I pray more reached out to him in his time of need. Secondly, if anyone was “busy” and had a free card to exempt himself from picking up a pen and paper it was the former president. Our excuses go out the window. However, despite not spending as much time in Washington lately his calendar is quite full. Within days, of this letter above he flew at midnight to Washington, DC from Dallas and he and his wife, Laura boarded “Air Force One” with President Obama and for the next 45 hours non-stop traveled half the globe to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela. Only to give a speech in another nation while the 747 was refueling. Yes, President Obama spoke at the funeral but Bush spoke overseas en route home. God only knows how much he accomplished in the last week. Then again, leaders like President Bush didn’t get to the top in their respective field by accident. Leadership is never lazy.
Just as important, we can all relate and sympathize with others more in setbacks than success. The second sentence from the President talks about him personally knowing about loss, hurt and dissapointment. It was because of his past pain that he could offer advice on perseverance in the present. President Abraham Lincoln suffered intense dark depression but was not just the Commander in Chief but the consummate Cheerleader in Chief constantly pushing for and promoting others. Our pain today can be a form of ministry and encouragement to another tomorrow.
Lastly, those that have already been to the mountain top desire nothing more to help encourage others in their temporal valley to move forward in their future. When you have been with the best you want others to be blessed. It is no longer competition but all about comradery. Who would have thought that Alabama’s biggest fan would have been a Texan?
Thrilled to have Sheila Walsh from “WOMEN OF FAITH” write an endorsement for my new book coming out early next year “Carrying Greatness.” In one of the chapters I share in detail about the time Basketball Hall of Fame, Meadowlark Lemon and I with another friend were in a hotel room together in Missouri watching Tim Tebow marching the Denver Broncos down the field setting up a last minute miracle finish.
As long as I live, I will never forget with each complete pass or first down the legendary “Clown Prince of Basketball” was clapping like a seal in approval of Tim’s accomplishments. As Tebow advanced his team towards the goal line, Meadowlark was now on the hotel bed and was like a kid in the candy store clapping all the more with that trademark smile from ear to ear. When they scored Meadowlark went WILD!! The Harlem Globetrotter in his late seventies was now jumping up and down on the bed like Kevin from “Home Alone” as if no one else was in the room. Astonished, I sat in a chair next to the wall of the hotel and was speechless. I had more fun watching him than Tebow just winning the game! It dawned on me that I wish every person in America could have seen what I just witnessed. I often wonder would Tebow be encouraged to know that one of the greatest athletes to ever pick up a leather basketball and dribble on a parquet floor was thrilled for his success? Ironically, Meadowlark’s number in basketball is 34 and when you reverse the numbers its 43. When we take a long look in the mirrow we all would do well to resemble 43 too.
Both Meadowlark in cheering Tebow in success and President Bush rooting for Foster in setback both showed class and compassion. Indeed, in more cases than not the “greats are gracious.” We may not all be known world-wide or be an official “globetrotter” but we can exude class and practice compassion. It takes maturity to root for another in their success and it takes just as much class and leadership to risk reaching out when others are hurting. I have learned like that REM song, “Everybody Hurts” and not everyone is helping. Secondly, when we love on folks in their valleys they don’t forget you when back on the mountain top. Thirdly and in closing, the next time you see someone lose or succeed may we resemble winners and cheer them on.