A Missed Field Goal

Posted on February 1, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

A missed field goal can be a jubilant occasion for one team and a heartbreak for another. The New York Giants made it into the Superbowl with a successful 3-pointer in overtime, while the New England Patriots made it when the Baltimore kicker missed a relatively short field goal in the final minute. The winners of an unusual number of college bowl games this year were determined by a field goal made or missed.

A missed field goal is agonizing to watch no matter which team you are for. The elation of the opposing team is understandable and justified, but even if I am for the winning team, the joy of that victory is diminished by sensitivity to the failed kicker. For the outcome of the game in a team sport, and maybe a championship, to be put on the shoulders of one man, seems unfair and a little too extreme.

Certainly any field goal kicker knows his vulnerability to being a hero or a goat. All he does is spend hours kicking balls through the goal posts until the routine become automatic. When the team is stopped short of the goal line, he trots onto the field throughout the game and, with a swing of the leg, adds another three points to the scoreboard. Then with the seconds ticking away, team trailing by one or two points, something goes awry. Maybe the placement was wrong, the timing off, or a lapse of concentration, and the potential game-winning kick sails outside the crossbars.

Maybe its because I have been there and experienced the agony of failure that I feel the pain of a missed field goal. We had a winning football team in high school and, as a tight end, I caught many touchdown passes. But my most prominent memory is of dropping a pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter of our final game that would have given us a tie for the conference championship.

Sure, there were other mistakes made by the team and other opportunities in which we failed to score. A loss should never be attributed to one player. If a team had not fumbled the ball or missed a tackle on the opponents punt return, the game would not have come down to that final dropped pass or a field goal kick.

We have all made mistakes and are haunted by times of failure. It may have been a foolish investment decision, and life savings were lost. It may have been a brief, one-time moral lapse that destroyed a marriage or a loss of temper that alienated a long-time friend. We would like for our failures to be personal and private, something we could easily cover over or reconcile without consequences. But, no, we are a part of a family, a business, a church, a community, and when we fail others are affected.

So, how does one rebound from failures? The tendency is to grovel, engage in a pity party, succumb to a burden of guilt and live with a loss of self-esteem; it is not uncommon to try to find someone else or circumstances to blame. It seems the pain will never go away. There have been plenty of field goal kickers who have been tempted to walk away from the game and quit, and perhaps some have. But the champions know that there will be another day, another opportunity, a chance to redeem themselves and their reputation. They remember the many times when they came through for the team and don’t let a recent failure distort their perspective on what they do and do well.

Everyone experiences failure at sometime or another when we let down the team, our family or business. The important thing is how we respond. We can’t rewrite history; the harm is done. But there is a choice of whether to grovel in defeat and let it tarnish our future, or rebound from the mistake to try again. Winners on the football field and in life are those who learn from their failures, analyze what went wrong and practice harder, knowing there will be another day and a new opportunity to make the kick and win the game.

3 Comments on “A Missed Field Goal”

  1. Tracey Adkins

    Thanks, Dr. Rankin. A useful word that I needed to hear today.

  2. Vickie Mascagni

    As a mother of a filed goal kicker years ago, this is great food for thought. Our flesh loves to grovel and the greatest lesson of those years was don’t whine, get up and try again. Thanks. Many lessons are in this writing.

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    […] the current post on whether or not God helps Tim Tebow. Don’t miss the next post this week on “A Missed Field Goal”–how do you rebound from failure? The devotional on posted on Friday will be on what it […]

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