A Tale of Two Football Players

from Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

This week the game of football lost one of its stars. At the age of 43, former San Diego Charger Junior Seau was found dead in his apartment, after an apparent suicide. Family, friends, and fans were left to pick up the pieces of a life that ended too soon, and the question on every tongue was “Why?” Why does someone who seemingly has the world in his hands choose to throw it all away? Why do we not see this coming? Why do we always assume that 19 successful years in the NFL, millions of dollars, multiple successful businesses, three beautiful children, and the adoration of  teammates and fans will somehow save a man from all his pain? Why do we call that same man “selfish” or “weak” when he ultimately decides his pain is too much and none of the good he has is worth living for?

Even if we give lip service to the truth that “money can’t buy you happiness,” I think most of us have it in the backs of our heads that somewhere there is a line you can cross, an invisible threshold that carries a person into the magical realm of “enough.” If you have $100 in your wallet, then maybe you think that line lives somewhere around $1,000. If you have $1,000,000, maybe “enough” is $2,000,000. Or maybe “enough” isn’t a number. Maybe it’s fame, glory, and screaming fans.

We’ll never know what this “enough” is because no one has ever received it from the world. Junior Seau clearly didn’t. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding this story, so I won’t pretend to know what was going through Seau’s mind in those last moments. But regardless of the causes of his depression – chemical imbalances, concussions, run-ins with the law, etc. – Seau’s fame, glory, screaming fans, and money were simply not enough. For him or for anyone else.

So what’s the answer?

Elsewhere in the world of football, there’s a player named Colt McCoy. He’s had the fame and the glory and probably has a pretty decent paycheck, too. But Colt McCoy knows this isn’t enough, and he knows it never will be. McCoy’s downward spiral began in his last college game, the 2009 National Championship. As the star quarterback of the Texas Longhorns, the expectations resting on him were sky high. Within minutes, it ended. McCoy was injured and out for the rest of the game. His team, backed by replacement QB Garrett Gilbert, did the best they could, but ultimately they lost.

from Joshua Gunter/Plain Dealer

For Colt McCoy, the promise of an NFL career still shone in his future. And then he got drafted by the Cleveland Browns. Although McCoy has certainly not been the most abysmal quarterback the Browns have ever seen, the fact remains that the 21 games under his leadership have lacked even the smallest amount of glory. Even the wins were ugly. And now it seems that the Browns have drafted McCoy’s replacement, potentially landing him in the role of back-up, a job he may hold for the rest of his career. In just over three years, he has gone from Heisman Trophy runner-up to a probable back-up on one of the NFL’s laughingstocks.

If “enough” is measured in success, then Colt McCoy certainly doesn’t have it anymore. If “enough” is measured in money, that’s a pool that could run dry sooner rather than later. But as this video shows, even after devastating loss and frustration, McCoy doesn’t measure “enough” in this way at all. (I definitely recommend you watch the whole thing, and if not, at least the last seven minutes.)

We hear this stuff from athletes all the time. There’s no shortage of guys giving God the glory, although the number who do so after one loss, let alone a career full of losses, is drastically lower. There’s no shortage of football stars who say they “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” them. But when those guys say it, most clearly don’t understand what Paul was actually saying: that Christ strengthens us to be content with what whatever we have, whether that’s everything or nothing, win or loss, life or death. If man’s ultimate purpose is glorifying God (instead of ourselves) and enjoying Him (instead of our stuff) forever, then the strength Christ gives is is probably going to help us do that, not help us win a few football games. In light of this, Philippians 4:13 is not exactly a “rah-rah, go get ’em” kind of verse, at least not by the world’s standards.

It appears that Colt McCoy has learned this, or is at least in the process of learning it. There’s no evidence to show that Junior Seau ever learned it. The truth is, there will still be pain, disappointments, and frustrations in any career, and in every other aspect of a person’s life. There will be good things too, things that will tempt us to think that contentment – “enough” – can be found outside of Christ. If Colt McCoy ends his career, be it in 15 years or 5, believing that Christ is his strength for contentment, then he will find that he truly does have enough. It’s the same “enough” that I embarked on this blogging journey hoping to find. It’s an “enough” that is available to anyone, regardless of what they have or don’t have.

So what about you? Do you have enough?

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