When each of my kids turned 10 years old, I took them to an Ohio State Buckeyes football game. Depending on the game, finding tickets was always a chore and planning the logistics of when to get there, where to park and dressing for the weather all made for an exciting day. It just so happened that when it was Kya’s turn to go to the football game, she had a stress fracture in her foot and had to wear a walking boot. I knew parking was a nightmare on game day and I felt bad having to make her walk a mile or 3 from the parking lot to the stadium. I idea clicked in my brain that made me wonder if we could somehow get a handicap pass. A phone call to the doctor and a few bucks later, we had ourselves a handicap pass which placed us right next to Ohio Stadium.
The approach to the Stadium is truly magnificent. Game day is buzzing with people, activities, fun, and anticipation. Peering up at the rounded arch at the front of the Stadium is picturesque to say the least. Upon entering, it’s a mad house of people as you navigate the signs telling you which deck, row and seat you need to get to. Then, once there, you walk through a small hallway that opens up inside the Stadium and you see the entire thing in all its glory.
Then, you look down at the football field. And, when you’re in the cheap less-expensive seats, the field looks fairly dinky. Truth be told, it looks out of place. Compared to the magnificence of the architecture of everything you’ve encountered to get to that point, it’s nothing more than a let down. And, rightfully so. I mean, the dimensions of a football field are universal. According to the rule book, a football game shall be played upon a rectangular field, 360 feet in length and 160 feet in width. Why the rule book measures in feet instead of yards is beyond me, but this translates into 120 yards long and 53.3 yards wide. So, ultimately the width and length are identical in your local high school stadium, any college venue, all the way up to all NFL fields. Our local high school stadium has a few bleachers on each side. So, the football field seems to fit well. Ohio Stadium seats over 100,000 spectators, so the field looks microscopic.
Kya, upon taking it all in, then allowing her gaze to drift downward toward the football field…”That’s it?” And, for the next 3 1/2 hours of our lives, from our vantage point, we watched miniature football players march up and down the small field. Grown adult men, with full ride scholarships and a promise to make a gagillion dollars in the NFL someday, struggled and strained and used their strength, muscles, grit and force move an air-filled, oblong ball made of pig-skin…forward. Sometimes choosing to hurl it through space and time, sometimes choosing to place it near their rib cage and carrying it along with them. But always seeking a yard, then another, then another. The gap closing between the stopped advancement, and the line which, when crossed, would tally 6 points on the scoreboard, which, quite literally, looked to be the same size as the football field.
Silly? Kinda, when I write it all here on a page. But in reality, I love the game of football, as do millions of Americans across this great nation. The Buckeyes went on to win the game, and in so doing, reminded me of an important principle in life. As each player struggled for a yard, they made progress toward a desired goal. Each play designed to get them closer. Sometimes, the play was successful, and progress was made. Other times, it wasn’t.
Life’s like that, don’t you think? We picture a desired outcome, a goal if you will, and set ourselves up to achieve it. Lose weight. Get finances in order. Write a book. Be happy. Break the addiction. Stop procrastinating. All noble goals to achieve, all several yards away from the present. And so, just like a football player, you prepare. You suit up in your uniform, develop a gameplan, rally a team around you for support, put your head down, and drive forward. Slowly, surely, sometimes 1 step forward and 2 steps back. But with sheer grit and determination, progress is made. And when the goal line seems just out of reach, you take a peak over your shoulder to remind yourself just how far you’ve come, how much adversity you’ve conquered, how you’ve got your opponent on their heels. Then comes the toughest part…the longest yard. It’s the point where you’re almost there, but not quite yet. You’re 99% there, but you need 100 yards to make it official. You’re tired, exhausted from the journey, but you need to muster one final push. The opponent…your mindset…seeking nothing more than to push you back. But through determination and will, you leave ever last ounce of strength on the field as you push through the goal line into the endzone!
Mission accomplished! Goal complete! Satisfaction delivered!
Celebration is in order, yet, you’re not done. You see, those points aren’t enough. To get better, another goal needs to be set, another journey embarked on, another mission in which to engage. And, you repeat the trip down the field all over again. Same intensity, same adversity, same field in this game called life.
The football field, like life, requires forward progress to accomplish a goal. May you enjoy the journey, the struggle is real, but it’s worth it. And may you traverse the longest yard with a spring in your step and a smile on your face.
And, may you find joy in repeating the process all over again! The Best Is Ahead!