Lessons Learned On The Football Field

Broncos linebackerI don’t think I’ll ever forget a play that happened last night in the Ravens-Broncos NFL opening-season game. As it turned out, it had no bearing on the result of the game, but I suspect it had great impact on the young man involved.

Danny Trevathan, a second-year Denver Broncos linebacker, made a remarkable play on a pass from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, jumping the pass route, intercepting the pass, and racing to the end zone.

Trouble is, in his enthusiasm to begin his celebration dance, he dropped the ball before he crossed into the end zone. What should have been an easy Denver touchdown turned into a touch back, giving the Ravens the ball again on the 20 yard line.

Fortunately for the Broncos and for Danny Trevathan, the game wasn’t close, and there wasn’t enough time left for the Ravens to mount a comeback. But that kind of play is often one of those momentum changers.

The thing is, Danny Trevathan really had made a great play. It was a third down, with the Ravens driving and perhaps just enough time on the clock for them to at least make the game respectable if they could score and then recover an onside kick.

But after making his terrific, timely interception, Danny didn’t wait for others to praise him. He went for the glory himself, and in the process robbed himself of the very thing he sought.

I couldn’t help but think of a number of verses in Scripture that tell us pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Besides Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, David talks about God abasing “haughty eyes,” James declares God’s attitude toward pride, and Peter repeats the same thing in an extended version:

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:5b-6)

Sadly Danny Trevathan apparently hasn’t learned the principle of letting others praise you and not your own mouth. Apparently he hasn’t learned that God abases the kind of pride he was ready to display.

But what a fortunate guy. True, his blooper happened in front of a national television audience, but it didn’t cost the Broncos the game. And it happened in a game. I mean, football is big business, and all, but it didn’t happen in a venue where people’s lives hinged on what he did or failed to do.

Plus, he gets to learn a valuable lesson that just might last a lifetime. In truth, this lesson could influence his entire worldview. Might it even be an opening for him to learn about God’s attitude toward pride? Now that would make Danny Trevathan a real winner . . . in spite of dropping the ball on the one foot line.

Published in: on September 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. I was thinking just today about how strongly pride runs in my family, and the devastating results some of us have experienced. “Devastating” is not a strong enough description … a better choice would be catastrophic? fatal? apocalyptic? Hmm. Nothing seems strong enough.


    • Pride is so much worse than most of us are aware of, isn’t it. Sadly, I think our culture almost glorifies pride. God clearly warns us of its devastating effects, but we don’t seem to realize when we have crossed the line. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a guy being happy that he made a great play. I do think it’s wrong when he takes all the credit for it, or even most of the credit for it. What does he have that he hasn’t received?



  2. I think I’d give the guy a pass. I’m not even sure I’d call it pride as much as excitement. Celebrating is part of football culture, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Plenty of vocal Christians that had/have celebration moves when they make a play in the NFL.


    • Well, of course I don’t know the guy, Jon. Maybe he isn’t prideful, but I’d say for most people, the kind of public display he was set to do was a lot more pride than anything. I’d say pride is a part of football culture. Why else this public celebration? It’s a way of saying, Look at me and what I just accomplished. And Christians aren’t above having to deal with pride, so I don’t think pointing to Christians who do the same thing is evidence that it’s an innocent action.

      Honestly, the only kind of celebration I enjoy in football is one where the players are crediting their teammates for they’re part. Nobody plays football by himself. Rarely if ever does a guy do something on his own that is deserving of solo praise. It’s a total team effort, including the coaching staff that puts them in their coverage on defense. In this case, the guy did make a great individual play, but it still wasn’t him alone. He had a line pressuring the QB and coaches who had shown him film and called the defense. It’s just not all about “ME.”



  3. Respectfully, I’ll disagree. I don’t think this kind of celebration is necessarily self-celebration as much as just excitement. In that sense I don’t think the celebration takes the credit for everything, guys make good plays they celebrate, if you don’t like that culture you can watch…Sumo wrestling?


    • I suppose these celebrations can communicate different things to different people. I see some as a celebration of self and some as a celebration of team. I think there’s a distinct difference. The latter I love (when it’s my team doing the celebrating 😉 ), but the former makes me want to shake the guy and say, how do you think you got into the end zone–by yourself, without your teammates doing their job?

      I think there’s a cult of quarterback in our enjoyment of football, with running backs and wide receivers just behind, and tight ends closing in from the rear. But linemen? Pffffh. Who cares about linemen? Well, every running back and quarterback who ever played should care and should share their success with the people who made it possible, I think.

      Defensive backs and linebackers seem to take a lot of credit for themselves; linemen, too, when they make sacks. But those things don’t happen in isolation. Celebrate, I say, but do so with your teammates–and after you’ve actually scored, not before. 😉



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