I’m not a football fan. I don’t obsess about records or scores. I can remember the names of players from my childhood better than the players who currently take the field. And yet, living in Seattle, it’s hard not to give in to the 12th Man.
They’re everywhere. The people I work with are obsessed. And I was reluctant to give in to the hype and the hoopla over the Seahawks. I “liked” them in that way that every person likes their hometown sports teams. But I did nothing to find out more about the players, I only watched three games all season (the last three, including the Super Bowl), and I only bought a piece of clothing with the ubiquitous blue and green logo because I needed to fit in at a big work event.
So why am I writing about the Seattle Seahawks?
Because their rout of the Denver Broncos yesterday has a lesson every kid and every parent needs to know. From the new world champion can come a great understanding of something that so many people miss in our performance-based, celebrity-obsessed, and yes, sports-minded culture.
It’s easy to be noticed for what your’re good at. It’s easy to be chosen when you’re good looking, or talented, or can play a particular sport or an instrument. The world is full of people who get noticed for what they can do. And it starts when you’re a kid.
I remember being a kid that nobody wanted. I wasn’t particularly athletic, I was small and scrawny. And when those moments came when people were chosen for games requiring athletic prowess, I always knew when I would get chosen. Usually after the kid who had a broken foot, was on crutches, and was terribly nearsighted. I was chosen after him.
There are kids and adults like that all around us. They don’t get noticed. They get overshadowed. There is someone who is just enough better, just enough taller, just enough more able–and they are left on the outside looking in. The unchosen. They might be good. They might be quite able to pass the ball, or hit the note, or smile just right. But there is someone else who gets noticed, and they get chosen instead.
It’s all about potential. Inside of every person is the God-given potential for greatness. How do I know? Because God Himself is great and He created us in His image. If He can do anything, well then, why can’t we? Sure, we all have different talents, but what makes one kid shine at sports while another kid sits on the benches? They have the same potential for being awesome, but one excels and one watches, unnoticed and unchosen.
What does this have to do with the Seattle Seahawks?
The team that just crushed the best offense and one of the greatest players in football history is full of players who weren’t chosen, who weren’t recognized as the best, who sat on the sidelines after the better guys found fame.
Quarterback Russell Wilson, who seems like a super nice guy in addition to being quite good at the sport he currently plays, was a third round draft pick. And his salary is less what is paid to Payton Manning’s backup.
Whatever you may feel about Richard Sherman’s arrogance, he has a right to brag. He was a fifth-round pick, makes eight figures less than the Broncos’ Champ Bailey, and his personal story shows even more how hard he had to work to get noticed.
The rest of the team is a who’s who of forgotten, unchosens: Jermaine Kearse, who broke several tackles and earned a touchdown in the Super Bowl, was not even chosen for the NFL draft. Cliff Avril was on the Detroit Lions in 2008, when they became, quite literally, the worst team in football history. Kam Chancellor, who had a stunning (I think even to him) interception at the end of the first quarter, was a fifth round choice. Even Percy Harvin, who turned the 2nd half kickoff into an amazing touchdown run, wasn’t the perfect player. Sure, the Seahawks invested a lot of money in him. But he sat out most of the season due to hip surgery, concussions, and other health concerns. And what about Derrick Coleman? As a deaf child, even though he loved the game, he was told he would never be able to be part of a team. Pitied, sitting on the bench, uncoached, undrafted. And now he is a Super Bowl Champion.
This is why it’s all about potential. Everyone has a God-given potential for achieving something great. What does it take to actually achieve it?
For the roster of players on the Seattle Seahawks, it took someone recognizing that potential and honing it. Believing in it. Not overlooking someone who wasn’t the best. And sticking with that potential, even when things get hard or complicated. What made the Seattle Seahawks so thoroughly beat the Denver Broncos wasn’t the bad playing of Payton Manning. It was the impressive belief in potential that turned a bunch of overlooked players into a team.
So what does that teach parents and kids everywhere?
Simple. Kids: if you aren’t chosen first, don’t let that stop you. You don’t have to be first pick to be great at something. (On a related, but non-sports, note, it helps to remember that one of the biggest movie stars of all time was once told he couldn’t sing, couldn’t act, and could only dance a little. His name was Fred Astaire.) As Russell Wilson’s dad used to say to him, “Why not you?” Hey kid, you weren’t chosen first. But–why not you?
Parents: find the potential in your kids and develop it. Recognize it. Believe in it. Help them discover the greatness they are capable of achieving. You should be like Pete Caroll, who brilliantly believed in a bunch of third and fourth choices and helped them become the Legion of Boom. If that image doesn’t work for you, think of yourself as Mufasa from The Lion King, who reminds his wayward son of his wasted potential: “You are more than what you have become. Remember who you are!” (I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t pull in a Disney reference somehow.)
So yes, now I am a fan of the Seattle Seahawks. I’m a proud member of the 12th Man. And not just because we won the Super Bowl, but because–as a father, husband, and children’s pastor–I see clearly just how we won. Because someone saw the potential, believed in it, and helped it achieve greatness.
Who wouldn’t want that as their legacy?