It’s one thing to lose, it’s another thing to go out on a note like we did. It’s hard when there is some sort of injustice or bad call that you have no control of. It was a long week after the NFC Championship Game.
Ending is never easy in any capacity. Every athlete understands that. This season we had made it to the playoffs, with home field advantage, but not only was the NFC Championship Game a tough one, I was unable to play. The week leading up to our second playoff game, I was in the hospital for a few days with appendicitis. I decided not to get surgery right away so I could play in the game. I know I had a lot of people praying for me. One of my good friends came over to pray for me (the same one who came to pray over my back at the beginning of the season — He’s a strong believer), and soon I began to feel better. But when I got to the meetings, my coaches decided to play the guys who had been able to make the practices that week.
It’s now the end of the season, and the end of my career as far as I know. It’s not how I wanted it to end, but a lot of things in life aren’t as you want them to be. These things are exercises in how we respond to certain things. The mourning process of a season — of unmet expectations — is a natural one. Grief is OK. We’re talking about a career or something you’ve put a lot of time and effort into; you’re allowed to grieve. It’s a natural part of the human experience, for the Christ-follower and the unbeliever alike.
The difference is, the Christ-follower can grieve with hope. We have an eternal perspective, even though sometimes we lose sight of it. I’m still working through this ending, and I will be for some time.
Now that I’m out of the game, I want my teammates to remember that not only do I play hard physically and mentally within the game, but I try to contribute to my team and support those around me. When things don’t go my way, I want them to know that I’ll still be a good teammate, with a good attitude. And when things do go my way, I want to be known to be gracious with the successes achieved.
I want them to feel like I challenged them spiritually, helping them draw closer to the Lord. I want them to know I’m serious about my faith. I hope they feel like I’m trustworthy, willing to have conversations about things outside of the game. I try to listen and invest in my teammates’ lives in any way that I can. I want them to know I’m someone who will stand beside them in the tough times. I want them to be inspired to get involved in their community, to be a faithful husband or father. I want them to be able to say, “This guy did it well, and I want to be even better.” I try to inspire them to believe they have what it takes in areas where the prevailing idea is often that they don’t.
I want my kids to remember the fun times of going into the locker room with Dad, running on the field, coming out to the game in their jerseys, watching their dad play. I want them to remember the excitement of gameday. Through all the injuries and the moves, I want them to be able to look back on it all and think, “Daddy didn’t give up. He persevered through a lot of things and always came out better for it, perfecting his craft.” I want them to remember the importance we placed on having team Bible studies at our house, pouring into others. I hope they know the importance of the relationships we built so they can carry that into whatever profession they pursue as well.
I’ll miss the exhilaration of the game. What else can match the thrill of scoring a touchdown in front of 70,000 people. It’s such a rush. As weird as it may sound, I will miss the grind. Even though I loathed it at times, I will miss the day-to-day, constant battle of working individually and as a team to get better. I’ll miss the mountaintop goal that we strive for as a team. As much as it hurts, and as much as you hate it at the time, you love working toward the goal at hand. That’s why you keep returning year after year. At this turning point in my life, I now have to figure out what my next goal is.
— Benjamin Watson, NFL tight end
Benjamin Watson is a regular contributor to The Increase and will be providing monthly articles and opinions.
Check out Benjamin’s Increase profile here: http://theincrease.com/author/benjaminwatson/
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