Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Football Parable

Some of us played football. Famously Roosevelt talked about being “in the arena” of life. In football whether we experienced winning, losing, or even championship seasons, most of us consider that we have “spent ourselves” in a worthy effort. Win or lose, we know “in the end the triumph of high achievement,” or, if we fail, “at least” we fail “while daring greatly.”*

Ran across the following football parable a few years ago:

Imagine that you are attending a football game. The teams seem evenly matched. One team has been trained to follow the rules; the other, to do just the opposite. They are committed to cheat and disobey every rule of sportsmanlike conduct. While the game ends in a tie, it is determined that it must continue until one side wins decisively. Soon the field is a quagmire. Players on both sides are being ground into the mud. The cheating of the opposing team turns to brutality. Players are carried off the field. Some have been injured critically; others, it is whispered, fatally. It ceases to be a game and becomes a battle.

You become very frustrated and upset. “Why let this go on? Neither team can win. It must be stopped.” Imagine that you confront the sponsor of the game and demand that he stop this useless, futile battle. You say it is senseless and without purpose. Has he no regard at all for the players? He calmly replies that he will not call the game. You are mistaken. There is a great purpose in it. You have not understood. He tells you that this is not a spectator sport—it is for the participants. It is for their sake that he permits the game to continue. Great benefit may come to them because of the challenges they face. He points to players sitting on the bench, suited up, eager to enter the game. “When each one of them has been in, when each has met the day for which he has prepared so long and trained so hard, then, and only then, will I call the game.”

Until then, it may not matter which team seems to be ahead. The present score is really not crucial. There are games within games, you know. Whatever is happening to the team, each player will have his day. Those players on the team that keeps the rules will not be eternally disadvantaged by the appearance that their team somehow always seems to be losing. In the field of destiny, no team or player will be eternally disadvantaged because they keep the rules. They may be cornered or misused, even defeated for a time. But individual players on that team, regardless of what appears on the scoreboard, may already be victorious. Each player will have a test sufficient to his needs; how each responds is the test.

When the game is finally over, you and they will see purpose in it all, may even express gratitude for having been on the field during the darkest part of the contest.
I do not think the Lord is quite so hopeless about what’s going on in the world as we are. He could put a stop to all of it any moment. But He will not! Not until every player has a chance to meet the test for which we were preparing before the world was, before we came into mortality.

(The Mystery of Life, Boyd K. Packer, October 1983 General Conference, Ensign, Nov. 1983, 16)


*See below Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “In The Arena”

In The Arena

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,

so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.