Football. Olympics. The mere terms reflect pride, passion and the American way.
Football is one of the best pastimes in our country, and its crescendo reached its zenith this past Sunday with the Super Bowl. Congratulations to the NFL champions, the Seattle Seahawks.
There are few events better than sitting (and standing) with family and friends cheering on your favorite team in that ultimate competition. And it's a pretty good excuse for munching the best of American grub as you do!
Also, the Winter Olympics are about to begin -- Friday, Feb. 7, in Sochi, Russia -- so I thought it's high time to celebrate human potential, human achievement and the spirit of contest.
I'm obviously a big lover of sports, and my favorites have got to be football, mixed martial arts and the Olympic Games, though you could easily talk me into watching any athletic event. What entices me most is not just watching competitors clash -- as exhilarating as that can be -- but marveling over how far humans' peak performance can be pushed. Don't you love seeing the background reels about how athletic champions fought to get to the top and acquired their optimum -- even herculean -- status?
What I also appreciate in the best of sports figures is hearing how they conduct their lives with grace and optimism, whether on or off the fields of rivalry. Those I'd admire most fight like Roman gladiators but never forget in the end that it's just a game or competition. They almost unanimously believe that what really counts is how they live their life and play the game.
Speaking of great warriors and gentlemen, consider just a select few players from both the Denver Broncos and the Seahawks -- our most recent Super Bowl competitors. I recently watched some online videos in which they described what matters most and drives them inside to be the best they can be on and off the turf. For many of them, it is their spiritual faith. (Check out the video interview with several Seahawks in CNSNews.com's article titled "Seahawks Players and Staff: 'Jesus is Better Than The Super Bowl,'" The 700 Club's interview with the Broncos' kicker, Jason Elam, and the new book by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and his father, Archie Manning.)
For example, in the Mannings' book, simply titled "Manning," Peyton describes his top four priorities and the meaning they bring to his life and his ability as one of the top NFL quarterbacks ever:
"For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. ... As important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old. ...
"Some players get more vocal about it ... and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don't do it, and don't think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don't want to be more of a target for criticism. ...
"My faith doesn't make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago. ...
"I've been blessed -- having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don't talk about it or brag about it because that's between God and me, and I'm no better than anybody else in God's sight.
"But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don't do too many things that displease Him. ... I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you're committed to God in that way."
Regardless of your creed, you have to commend all these champions on both teams mentioned above for playing the game of life as it should be -- with faith, fullness and joy.
Every team has its stars, but each member deserves our admiration for what he's achieved and contributed, including those on the coaching and support staffs. They all paid the price to get where they are. Win or lose, play or support from the sidelines, every member sacrifices in mind, body and soul to compete in the games and bring them and us to the thrill of victory.
Former player, coach and broadcaster John Madden once described football this way: "You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack and one guy not getting in the end zone."
Former player and broadcaster Frank Gifford once said: "Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors."
As a six-time undefeated world karate champion, I get the thrill of victory. But I never got the agony of defeat, and here's why. Although I did lose several times in my climb up the competitive ladder, let me share with you my philosophy on winning and losing along the way. Through years of competition, I found that the only time I ever really lost was when I did not learn from that experience. I would say to myself, "I may have lost this time, but I will never lose the same way twice." It helped me not to get discouraged or upset. As the great Vince Lombardi explained, "it's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up." And if you think your hurdles are too hard or high, then find hope and be inspired by the video story of 14-year-old Isaac Lufkin. (It's on CNN's website and titled "Teen aiming for NFL lacks key body parts.")
(To tap into more power for living, I recommend checking out three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs' website, Game Plan For Life.)
So as you watch the Winter Olympics, remember to celebrate not only those who compete and the winning spirit but also your own innate human potential. God has endowed all of us with it so we can face our fears and hardships and push ourselves beyond the scope of what we believe to be humanly possible.
Lastly, if by chance you missed the opening Super Bowl mock movie trailer -- which Fox Sports produced with Conan O'Brien, Paul Scheer, Joe Namath and me -- you can view it on YouTube. (It's titled "'Escape to East Rutherford' trailer with Chuck Norris, Conan O'Brien, Paul Scheer.") It was a lot of fun recording that!