THE GAME OF LIFE

How many of you watched the Superbowl? That game will go down in history!  football-308956_640I’d like to tell you of another football game that is also memorable—although for a far different reasons.

The event took place on January 1st, 1929 in Pasadena. California.. The Rose Bowl stadium was packed with over 70,000 fans. Across America, families sat by their radios in eager anticipation. This would be the game of the year–the University of California vs. Georgia Tech.

Both teams played brilliantly, but by the middle of the second quarter, neither had scored. Then Georgia fumbled the ball and Roy Reigels, the California center, scooped it up.  He managed to pivot away from his tacklers, hang onto the ball, and run for the goal. …  The problem was, he ran toward the wrong goal!

The stadium erupted as fans leapt to their feet, screaming.  Radio listeners heard the announcer shouting, “What am I seeing? Am I crazy? Am I crazy?”

Roy ran sixty-nine yards before being brought down by his own quarterback just short of the one-yard line. Georgia scored a 2-point safety just as the first half ended.

The teams filed back to their locker rooms, everyone expecting the coach to tear Roy apart. No one—not the fans, not the other players, and certainly not Roy himself–expected what came next.

While the team waited for the expected tirade, Coach “Nibs” Price walked back and forth in silence, thinking. At last, the 3-minute warning sounded. He turned and said, “Boys, the same team that played the first half will play the second.” They buckled on their leather helmets and hustled back to the field—all except Roy, who sat weeping a strong man’s tears.

The coach laid a hand on his shoulder. “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will play the second.”

Roy looked up through his tears. “Coach, I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California. I couldn’t face those people out there to save my life.”

“Roy, get up and go back out there. The game is only half over.”

People who watched the game said they’d never seen such football as Roy played that second half. But despite his brilliant performance, George won the game by one point.

Roy went on to become team captain and All-American next year. After graduation, he coached football and taught other young men not to let mistakes get them down. He served our country with honor in World War II.  Then he married and raised four fine kids. In 1991, he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

He often said of his blunder, which has been called the worst in sports history, “It made me a better person. I learned that you can bounce back from misfortune and see it as just something adverse that happens to you.”

*****

I take great comfort from Roy’s story. I too have experienced adversity that knocked the breath from me. Over 30 years ago, when my husband died, I wanted to run away and hide. I became disoriented and lost purpose. Then I too felt a hand on my shoulder and heard God’s gentle voice, “Joanne, your life is not over. Get back in the game.”

With His guidance, I’ve lived this second half of life with joyous abandon.  I’ve written six books, provided a home for a number of people who needed temporary shelter, and led ministries for troubled teens and nursing home residents. Of perhaps greatest importance, I have relentlessly loved, prodded, and encouraged my children and their growing families.

Now the fourth quarter is almost over. Days . . . hours . . . minutes are ticking away. But while God gives me breath, I will do my best to honor Him.

I will give this game of life my all.

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