Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Life Lessons from the Gridiron

With the upsets happening in the ongoing NFL playoffs I'm once again reminded how much the game of football resembles how we go about our lives. Simply unpredictable.

The Seattle Seahawks came into the playoffs with a losing record. The New Orlean Saints is the highly regarded defending champions. If you're a betting man you'd wager the Saints to clobber the Seahawks. Many did and then the Seahawks upset the Saints 41-36.

Ben Obomanu and Matt Hasselbeck celebrating
a touchdown.

Drew Brees trying to rally a comback for the Saints.
Better luck next year Drew!

Then came the two spectacular wins by the New York Jets versus two NFL bigshots---the Indianapolis Colts and the league leading New England Patriots.

Well, thanks to the quarterbacking skills of Peyton Manning, the Colts were able to salvage a playoffs entry despite the injuries to their key passing and running players. Needless to say, they were favored to beat the Jets whose quarterback, Mark Sanchez, was having difficulty getting touchdowns.

Peyton Manning orchestrating what was to be the drive to set up...

...the winning score by Adam Vinatieri...

...but Antonio Cromartie and the Jets had other plans.

The Colts were down 14-13 late in the 4th quarter and then Manning marched his team to the Jets' 35 yard line to set up a 50 yard field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri---vintage Peyton. And who's going to doubt Vinatieri's balls of steal during crunch time? DUH?! He has won two Superbowls with that trusty foot of his to prove it! So with 53 seconds left, the Jets found themselves down by two points.

For the faint hearted, there isn't much you can do in such short a time with a quarterback passing only 54%. Although the Jets ranked third in the league in terms of kick off returns with an average of 26 yards per attempt, the guy who caught the ball, Antonio Cromartie, only had one attempt during the regular season and only gained negative yardage. Real bummer of a situation, right? Well, as I've mentioned earlier, anything can happen in football! To cut the long story short, Cromartie returns the ball 47 yards down field and then Sanchez goes 100% passing to the Colts' 14 yard line to set up the winning field goal!

Lucky? Yeah, right! Tell that to the New England Patriots who came to the playoffs with a league leading 14-3 record!

When this two teams last met in week 13 of the regular season, Jets' coach Rex Ryan had a lot to say against the Patriots to heat up the rivalry. "All talk, no substance," said New England QB Tom Brady as the Patriots demolished the Jets 45-3. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Jets were all substance during their playoff game with Sanchez accounting for 3 TDs (with a 64% pass completion) and the defense harrassing Brady all through out the game and getting 5 sacks. Final score: 28-21 in favor of the Jets!

Mark Sanchez came alive with 3 touchdown passes.

One of the 5 sacks on Tom Brady.  This one by defensive
end Shaun Ellis.

In retrospect, life bounces like a football. Unlike a round ball, which goes in one direction when thrown, the spheroidal shape of a football makes it bounce everywhere---which is very much like LIFE. No matter how much you plan your life, there is always something that comes up to challenge your serene disposition. It's like lining up in offense, the quarterback calls a play with specific routes and blocking assignment.  The play is designed to provide maximum protection of the quarterback from 11 large, ferocious defensive players determined to take him down.  Now prior to the game, the opposing team has been scouted based on past games both defensively and offensively. Offensive play calling is based on this pre-game assessment.  As an additional fallback, quarterbacks have this talent of reading defense and can call out audibles to change the play based on his reads; but they are not mind readers---so there will be situations when the read is wrong and he ends up sacked or intercepted.

The Defensive and Offensive Formation

Our lives are defined by how well we read the various obstacles that come our way. Believe me, we have our own version of the 11-man obstacle in our lives albeit in varying degrees of aggression. There will definitely times when we will falter and end up with our faces in the mud. We are fallible beings after all. The next test is---can we stand up from the quagmire and journey on until we get the touchdown of our lives?

Life, like football, is a game of inches. In every facet of our lives we aim to get an inch closer with the notion that in the end of it all adding all those inches will bring us to what we are aiming for.

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