I wonder what it’s like to look out over the vast sea of a crowd and know that they are cheering for you. I wonder what it’s like to know that there are thousands of viewers all over the world, with their eyes trained on your face, hanging onto your every move. I wonder what it’s like to win big.
I wondered those things last night, as I watched the Superbowl. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that those are real people out there, people with quirks and hobbies and interests, people who hate spinach and fall for mint-chocolate-chip ice cream. I wonder what’s it like to know who you are and also who people think you are.
They all say the same thing, that this is the game they want to win more than anything. It’s the moment they dreamed of since they were kids. It’s a dream come true. It’s unbelievable. They smile, and they kiss the trophy, and they hug amidst the confetti, and I sit there wondering what they’re really thinking.
Oh, I’m sure there’s joy. I’m sure there’s elation and relief and a sense of shock, that wonderful I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening sort of wooziness. I can only imagine the sense of pride and achievement they must have as they stand there before the world with the coveted trophy in their hands and thousands of fans screaming their names.
But I wonder what they feel later, once they’ve gone home from the parties, the press finally goes away, and the lights dim and the screaming crowds fade. What do they feel when they’re alone, with nothing but the darkness of the room and the utter quiet and the pounding of their hearts?
I wonder if they rub the glittering ring on their finger and try to convince themselves it’s real. Do they try convince themselves that they should be more excited? This is what you’ve worked for all your life—why aren’t you happier?
I wonder if they think back on all the practices and media harassment and the injuries and know in the deepest way that it was worth it. Do they think there’s got to be something more? I have everything. Everything. So what am I yearning for?
Do they see all the things they sacrificed—the family time, the friendships, the opportunities to serve and rest and enjoy normal life and be yourself without a world watching—do they see all that and know it was worth it? Do they have any regrets?
I wonder, do they cry? I saw tears last night, tears of joy, but in the quiet hours of the early morning when no one’s watching, do they cry for another reason? Do they cry because they still ache and want something and they can’t find it, even though they have supposedly everything? Or do they push the ache away, burying it so deep they’ll never have to endure it again?
I guess what I wonder most is if they’re satisfied. Satis—it means “enough” in latin. Is it enough to win the Superbowl? Do you feel like you need something else? If I could ask them just one question, that’s what it would be. Is it enough, Tom Brady? Is it enough, Bellicheck? Is it enough, you previous champions and MVPs? Is it enough, all you gold medalists? I’ll never win big like that, but you have, so maybe you can tell me. Are you satisfied?
And I know what they’d tell me.
They would say no.
No, it’s not enough. No, I’m not satisfied. No, I want more, I need more, more!
That answer is obvious. Otherwise, why do they keep playing? If winning the Superbowl is enough, why do they keep trying for another one? If winning the Olympics is enough, why do they compete at Worlds and this competition and that competition and the Olympic Trials again in four years?
All the sports figures and champions and heroes, they try to keep in the secret, but it inevitably comes out. The secret that they’re not happy. The rest of us ignore them, though, so fixated on the podium and the prizes, so entranced by glory and intoxicated by a dream. That’s all it is, a dream. The reality of winning is far different than we imagine.
When the crowds go home, the reporters return to their offices, the doors close, and they’re all alone, they come face-to-face with the devastating truth: Winning is empty. Success is empty. Yes, there is a certain allure, a brief high, a vapor of ecstasy—if there wasn’t, people wouldn’t want to win. But it goes so fast, and it’s so temporal, and it leaves you … empty.
The Superbowl is over, and the Patriots are showered with confetti, and Tom Brady stands with his incredible records and MVP status and the trophy, and I just wish he could find what he’s looking for.
I hope he feels empty.
I don’t want that because I’m mean and like seeing people suffer. I want him to be empty because that’s the only way he can find the truth. He has to recognize his emptiness before he can accept what will satisfy. As long as he clings to the illusion that he’s happy, that football and winning will bring more happiness, he’ll never find true joy.
Please, Tom, Bill, all you Pats and Hawks and fans and the world, please know: There is only one way to be satisfied. There is only way to find enough. It’s the one thing you haven’t tried—you have it all, Tom, the fame, the money, the gorgeous wife, the reputation, the stuff—but there’s one thing you don’t have.
You don’t have Jesus.
He’s holding out his hand, offering a world of joy that’s greater and deeper than anything you’ve ever known. You know that surge of joy you felt last night? You know the giddy excitement you experienced on the podium? It’s a shadow of what He offers—actually, it’s nothing compared to what He offers. What He offers doesn’t depend on your age or talent or the media’s whims or off days. In fact, it doesn’t depend on you at all—and that should be a relief, because you of all people should know the pressure to not fail, the pressure that it depends on you.
Go to Jesus. I promise He’s what you’re looking for.
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