Bert Bell, NFL Commissioner from 1946 – 1959, coined the phrase “on any given Sunday.” It means that no matter what the odds are, on any given Sunday any team can beat any other team.
I feel like we live it every single week when we cross our fingers and hope the Steelers show up on NFL Red Zone channel trying to score. Most of the time, they show up on the Red Zone channel trying to prevent the other team from scoring. We are just thrilled if they squeeze out a win any given Sunday.
But last weekend, we definitely experienced this phrase up close and personal. My oldest son’s football team had worked hard through the season to make it to the Super Bowl for his age group. My other son gets to play up with the D1 boys in this age group, since his D2 team had won their bowl game weeks ago. Our league plays the Super Bowl games for each age group on Saturday.
We were playing a team that we had gone up against in the regular season, having won by a touchdown in that game. We knew the game would be a good one; a tough one. But by beating them in the regular season, the odds should have been in our favor, right?
The game was a defensive gem. Both teams made plays that prevented scoring through the first three quarters of the game. As time wound down in the final quarter, with just 22 seconds left in the game, my friend Michelle’s son made this catch that I captured with my camera:
With that and the kicked extra point (in this league, you get two points for an extra point kick since it’s harder for these kids), we were ahead 8 – 0. Elation!
On the ensuing kick off, that same #6 who had tried and failed to disrupt our pass play in the end zone got the ball and ran it all the way back for a touchdown. And their kicker got the extra point, so we were tied 8-8 and had to head to overtime. What’s the opposite of elation, cuz that’s how watching that play unfold felt.
In overtime, each team gets the ball on the 10 yard line and 4 downs to score. We won the toss and got the ball first. The defense for the other team did it’s job for the first three downs and on 4th down we weren’t able to run the ball in to score. Our defense took the field, and their offense ran three plays that resulted in no gain. On 4th down, they put their kicker in and he booted it through the uprights.
Now I — and the entire Lions Nation who came out to cheer our boys on — definitely felt the opposite of elation.
This was the second time in three years our boys made it to the Super Bowl for their age group in our league, against a team they beat in the regular season, only to lose in the last seconds of the game. In 2012, they had played an undefeated season up until that Super Bowl game.
In 2012, there were lots of 9-, 10-, and 11-year old tears after that loss. And the coaches were pretty emotional as well. The parents and fans gathered around the boys as the coaches spoke to them after the game. I had painted my face with blue and gold Lion paws, and as the head defensive coach spoke to them after the game — crying through his speech — I ended up with runny paws on my cheeks from my own tears as I handed out the post-game cupcakes.
This year, the parents and fans gave the team their space during the post-game comments. My friend Michelle and I were standing near the team, ready to hand out the goodies I made them this year.
This year, there were tears again. Not as many, and not as strong, but 11-, 12-, and 13-year old boys still feel the sting of loss. So do their coaches, parents, and fans.
The Monday after the game, the boys had to turn in their uniforms. The team mom said that they were all sad and still upset about the loss, until one kid came in. She said to him “You doing ok, Nick?” He quickly smiled and responded, “Sure am. Third time’s the charm, right?”
That’s right Nick…on any given Saturday, the third time could be the charm.