Life is Like a Football GameJul 01, 2022 ● By Bob Warren
"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
That’s quoting actor Tom Hanks as he played the part of Forrest Gump. He definitely had a point, as life has a way of treating us differently from time to time. Another opinion about life was expressed in a song by songwriters M.E. Abbey and Charles Tillman as they penned Life’s Railway to Heaven. The song says, “Life is like a mountain railway. Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eyes on the rail.” That’s certainly good advice.
Yes, we all may have our opinions about life, but, after making it safely past my 101st birthday earlier this year, I have looked back and can see that my life has been like several things – some good and some not so good.
One of the things I like to compare my life to is something I have enjoyed playing and watching being played: that’s a football game. My favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, for example, win some, lose some and fight some to a draw (overtime). I feel that I must be in overtime, so come with me as I look back at the game of life.
You football fans especially may appreciate the analogy as I note what I feel are the similarities between a game and life. Please pardon the personal reference, but since my own life is the one that I know best, that is the one I must use for comparison.
A football game consists of four 15-minute quarters and, if the score is tied, it goes into an overtime period. Life, by contrast, has no definite times but it can, for this purpose, be divided into segments such as youth, adulthood and retirement years. For some, like me, if you reach 100 years, that’s “overtime.”
During a game, first comes the coin toss to see who will receive and who is to be on defense. In life, someone other than ourselves determines who we shall be - a boy or girl - and what we shall look like. As far as we are concerned, that’s like a coin toss: something out of our control.
Oh, we won the toss: I’ve been born. We got the ball. Run with it. Ouch! What’s that? I got tackled, or maybe I got stuck with a diaper pin. My parents are making the rules which, if I obey, I stand a better chance of scoring – meaning hugs, praise, good food and a warm place to live. Here comes a pass: Got it, so run for a touchdown. The referees make the rules here, and they rule it a touchdown. So, I kick the extra point and the score is seven to nothing.
Now I’ve learned to walk, and here I am in school where the teachers makes the rules. Living by their rules means I have a better chance of making top grades and doing well in life. For a boy, it can mean such things as making the football team and being popular. For a girl, it may mean being good at dancing, modeling, basketball, cooking, art or many other ways that put you “on the first team.” Our scores – instead of touchdowns, field goals, etc. – may come in the form of getting a good job and having a meaningful life.
There’s the whistle. It’s the end of the first quarter and, as the second quarter begins, we find ourselves in high school. That defensive line is getting harder to penetrate. Algebra, geometry and Latin stretch our brain as we find ourselves facing an even tougher team. In my case, it was a struggle with classmate Lucille McIntyre to see which of us would get the best grades, become valedictorian and earn a scholarship. Finally came the announcement: The referee said I won! I got a scholarship that would provide tuition for two semesters at any state school. That was $25.00 per semester– not much today, but a lot back then. So, I was off to Texas A&M for four years. Poor Lucille got tackled: She got married instead of going to college.
I caught a pass and ran for a touchdown just before the referee blew the whistle ending the first half. Into the clubhouse we go for a few minute’s rest and a “chewing out” from the coach for some of our mistakes. He makes some changes in the game plan and tells us we need to do a better job of blocking to protect our quarterback. That’s like some of the lessons we learn the hard way. We vow to do better as we head out for the third quarter.
We switch ends of the field, not knowing what this quarter will bring. The world is at war and we are part of it. Put on new uniforms and learn to fight the enemy, which is the other team at the moment. I learned to fly C-47 aircraft and how to tow gliders filled with airborne infantry in order to take them into enemy territory. The other team had scored and it is our turn to get even.
We look to our quarterback, Gen. Eisenhower, for answers as to how we can score. He calls for a “Hail Mary” pass, drops back and throws. Our receiver has gone deep downfield and has broken free. Here comes the long pass, and – great! – it’s a completion for the score. He tells me to take my C-47 and fly to Europe to join a unit there. That puts us ahead by three points. But wait: It’s not fair. The enemy is shooting at us and has shot down one of my buddies right in front of me. It’s a close game, but I still think we’re winning as the referee blows his whistle, signaling the end of the third quarter.
As the fourth and final quarter begins, our quarterback calls for us to huddle. He says we need to keep our goal in mind as the bullets fly. The goal is to win the game, so we need to ask the Lord to guide and protect us. We have a short prayer and go on the attack to repel the enemy. It works! The latest word is that our foes are retreating. The referee drops the flag and says he’s penalizing the other team for unnecessary roughness. They move back 15 yards, putting us nearer to the goal line. We huddle and our quarterback calls for a pass. It’s a completion for a score. The extra point puts us in a tie. We have dropped airborne troops across enemy lines and victory nears. Time runs out, and the referee says we’re headed for overtime, where we ultimately found victory.
Come to think of it, I’m in overtime at the age of 101. In life, we must pledge to do our best to “keep on keeping on” as long as we can, hoping we don’t get tackled for a loss (you know what that means). As for me, my faith assures me that my overtime will result in a victory.
So goes our game of life. Mine’s a lot like a football game. I’m wishing you the best, for whatever game you’re in, and may the best team win!
Bob Warren is a local historian, former mayor of Frisco and a regular contributor to Frisco STYLE Magazine.