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500+ for 50 – day 32: open field

There aren’t many plays more exciting to watch in the game of football than when a back bursts through the initial line of defense and heads out into the open field.  These are the types of game changing moments that we as fans live for week to week.  No matter your vantage point, be it the from the stadium bleachers or from the couch in your living room, when your team’s running back has nothing but green in front of him it’s nearly impossible to remain seated.  In fact we really can’t help but rise to our feet in anticipation of what may follow as we eagerly visualize the celebration of a big gain or perhaps even a touchdown with those in the crowd or easy chairs nearby. 

The game of football is about creating big plays on both sides of the ball throughout the entire four quarters of every contest.  There are games when two evenly matched teams will square up for battle and very few breakout plays will occur.  As fans we may sit in the stands and be offered nothing more than a stalemate for three quarters.  But then, as the clock winds late in the fourth quarter, inevitably someone will lay a key block that will open a crease just wide enough for our back to slip through, and moments later we’ll jump to our feet to cheer on his move into the open field.  The result of the ensuing run could very well be the break in the game that we need to separate ourselves from our opponent.  This opportunity could put us into field goal range, or better yet into the end zone.  It could be our only chance to steal a victory and perhaps direct the course of an entire season lying ahead of us.  So it’s critical that we make the most of it.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Any Given Sunday, you’ll probably recall Al Pacino’s passionate locker room speech when he describes life, and football, as being a “game of inches”.  Having fallen in love with the gridiron after spending many years playing the game and having experienced countless ups and downs in my life, I know this to be very accurate comparison.  The margin of error in life and in football is minuscule.  We live in a world characterized by darkness.  And each and every day we are being asked to compete with a weighty opponent that seeks to do nothing more than wear us down for four straight quarters.  But in the game of life there are bright spots of opportunity to be had in every moment of every day, just as there are during the course of every game of football.  We’ve simply got to be willing to passionately seek every chance that we can to step into the light.  And then when our break occurs, we must burst into the radiance before us, into the open field if you will, because it will be those game changing moments that will be the difference between our ultimate successes and failures in life.

Open field runs do not occur throughout the course of a football game simply as a product of chance.  They are the result of a relentless, committed effort at execution.  And the same is true of the breaks that we receive in life.  It may be a critical block on a linebacker that springs a back to the secondary.  Or it could be a perfect read on the opponent’s alignment from the booth upstairs that pinpoints the void in the defense on that particular series.  Perhaps it’s nothing more than the running back’s rugged, determined effort to keep his legs driving and dispose of any defenders that step into his path that ultimately leads him to the open field.  Whether in football or in life, such opportunities are never coincidental.  They occur as a direct result of our effort, our will, our execution, and our unwavering faith in our course of action.

It can be a difficult task to stay the course when our opponent appears well equipped to hold us in check throughout the game of life before us.  But if we’ve prepared well and have studied the game plan, if we’re committed to achieving victory and we believe wholeheartedly that we deserve it, opportunities to create game changing plays will occur.  It may be an open door from a professional connection that we met years ago.  Or it could be an enlightened vision from our life coordinator from above.  Perhaps it will occur simply as the result of our willingness to work harder at differentiating ourselves and giving more to life than the average individual.  But no matter how bleak our circumstances may appear before us, if we persist, we can overcome every single opponent in life. 

Here’s the key: when you see an opening, you need to accelerate.  Switch into a higher gear.  You’ll notice that most running backs handle themselves differently in the open field than they do between the tackles.  They seem to have an extra burst for creating the separation that they desire in the green grass before them.  They don’t slow down to take account of their surroundings.  They simply find the daylight and like a rocket they launch themselves into it.  It’s similar in life.  When you are awarded an invitation into the open field, you cannot hesitate.  There is no time to think, to worry, to doubt, to contemplate – simply take action before the door closes.  After all, these windows of opportunity will not last forever.  The game of life, like football, is a game of inches.  And it’s crucial that we TAKE those inches that will lead to our success when they present themselves, or our opponent will devour them quickly with no remorse.

When a back gets into the open field, he becomes very hard to tackle.  This is when his skill set is so incredibly fun to watch.  A talented running back can make the game of football look effortless as he shoots into the secondary leaving would be tacklers grasping at air behind him.  The same will be true for you in life.  If you allow yourself to accelerate into game changing opportunities you will blow by the obstacles before you and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to impede your progress.  And the depth of your ability will be clearly evident among the onlookers in the stands.  They will rise to their feet in anticipation of your greatness as you effortlessly glide into the end zone to celebrate your victory.

Remember, don’t hesitate – accelerate.  Take the break and make your life living in the open field.

May God Bless!