That there is "life outside of football" may be a necessary reminder for some sports fans and couch potatoes now that Super Bowl XLI is over. Now that the Indianapolis Colts have the Lombardi Trophy in hand, some of them may be wondering what they will do until next season begins.
But the line is actually from Tony Dungy, the Colts' head coach. It wasn't spoken after last Sunday's water-logged victory over the Chicago Bears but just after his son James committed suicide 13 months ago.
In a speech he made shortly after that tragedy, Dungy talked about all three of his sons. He spoke first of his middle son, Eric, and said his competitive nature is so focused on athletics that "it's almost a problem." Then he turned to his youngest son, Jordan, whose rare congenital condition makes him insensitive to pain. "That sounds like it's good at the beginning, but I promise you it's not," said Coach Dungy. "We've learned some hurts are really necessary for kids. Pain is necessary for kids to find out the difference between what's good and what's harmful." "Cookies are good," the coach explained, "but – in Jordan's mind – if they're good out on the plate, they're even better in the oven. He will go right in the oven when my wife's not looking, reach in, take the rack out, take the pan out, burn his hands – then eat the cookies and burn his tongue and never feel it." "Pain sometimes lets us know we have a condition that needs to be healed," Dungy said. "Pain inside sometimes lets us know that spiritually we're not quite right, and we need to be healed. And that God will send that healing agent right to the spot. Sometimes pain is the only way that will turn us as kids back to the Father."
Only then did Coach Dungy speak of his oldest son, James, who took his life three days before Christmas 2005. He spoke of his family's pain. He talked about lessons they were learning from it. He and his wife have since joined an organization dedicated to preventing teen suicide.
I'm glad Dungy's team won the big game. I am impressed by his humility, strength, and deep Christian faith. And I am grateful he could remind all of us there is life outside of football, work, and tragedy. There is the authentic love of God that carries us through, puts everything else in perspective, and reminds us of what really matters.
Life isn't about football. It is about accepting and sharing God's love.