I fear we often pay too much attention to professional athletes. While some serve as remarkable role models, many despite fantastic athletic ability do not set an example anyone would be wise to follow. So, it may surprise readers to learn I am writing about two sports superstars who can teach all of us a valuable lesson whether we are athletic or not.
The first is from legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. He once gave this perceptive advice to aspiring players. “You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything will rise.” Jordan’s point was simple. Do more than merely practice… practice right.
My friend, Dan Mueller, recently recommended James Bryan Smith’s fine book, The Good and Beautiful God to my men’s group. The men in our group agreed it would be a great study. In the first chapter I learned a fascinating fact about Peyton Manning.
Manning was the winning quarterback in Super Bowl XLI, the first Super Bowl in which it rained throughout the entire game. Predictably, the slippery football was one of the game’s big stories. The difference between who won and who lost was that Manning fumbled only once and threw just one interception, while the Chicago Bears’ quarterback, Rex Brossman, had two fumbles and two interceptions.
You could legitimately say he was twice as bothered by the rain as Manning… and you would be right. Here is why. A few weeks after the rainy Super Bowl, a reporter discovered that every few weeks Manning had his center (the player who hikes the ball) snap him water-soaked footballs. He regularly practiced with wet footballs so he would be prepared to play well in a rainy game. This is particularly surprising since Manning’s Colts played in a dome. His unexpected practice with soggy footballs played a pivotal role in Manning winning his first Super Bowl.
The common theme between Michael Jordan’s advice and Peyton Manning going beyond what was expected was their commitment to excellence; the attitude which said, if you are going to do something do it right, or do not do it at all.
The Apostle Paul made a similar point when he wrote, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23, NIV) In other words, give 100% to what you do, and do it for God, not just yourself. Paul’s thought-provoking statement adds a spiritual dimension to the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and it helps us understand that what we do today has eternal implications.
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