I have the rather dubious honor of calling myself a Kansas City Chiefs fan.
As of yesterday, we have earned 5 W’s, and 4 L’s, and yesterday’s L was a particularly difficult one, seeing as how we gave the W to the Denver Broncos, of all teams, and we allowed them to do it with 49 points. But as painful as it was to see them score 4 touchdowns on their first four possessions, I feel much better about yesterday’s L, than last week’s against the hated Oakland Raiders. Yes, our first quarter was abysmal, but it forced us to develop a side of the game that had really been limping along… the passing game.
From the beginning of quarterback Matt Cassel‘s tenure with the Chiefs, I’d liked him. I felt like there was a future there, if we could develop it. But given two running backs with pro-bowl stature like Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, and we started winning games on the ground, Cassel wasn’t really given an opportunity. Until yesterday. You can’t run the ball when you’re down by 35 points in the 2nd quarter, you have to catch some air. And despite several sacks and a disastrous fumble, he did it quite well, passing for 469 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
In other words, I ought to feel like crap, but I don’t. We’re a rebuilding team, and despite the recent L’s, I think we’re getting the job done.
An opposite example is the torturous W we earned against the Buffalo Bills, which came down to the final seconds of OT without an FG or a TD, and we almost came out with a T. And this was against an 0-6 team that we should have trounced. It’s hard to tout that W.
And I remember the L we took against the Indianapolis Colts, when time and again we shut down the NFL’s hallowed quarterback, Peyton Manning. Obviously they won the game, but when Manning was interviewed by the commentators, he was not happy about their performance. Nevertheless, he wrapped up by saying, “a W’s a W.”
Frankly, I think it’s BS.
Nobody opens their season hoping to lose the Super Bowl. Or get knocked out in the second round of playoffs. Anybody with real hope for their team says one thing: “This year we’re going ALL THE WAY!” And that never involves going 16-0. (It’s only happened once in NFL history, and there’s a reason… coaches of teams that win their first 12 or 13 games would rather take a loss at the end of the season, and save their best players for the playoffs. Save the W’s for when they really count.)
So there will be some L’s. The question is, were they learning L’s? And how did we earn those W’s? Through talent, strategy and physical domination? or through luck, penalties and some bad calls? The answers to those questions have a lot to do with how you will fare once the playoffs come around.
The fact is, every single W and L has a story behind it. A W is not a W.
If you’ve ever been inside an old country church, you’ve probably seen the little attendance and offering boards they put on the walls of the sanctuary, usually next to the front pews. Although I think these are kind of charming and quaint, I find them pretty unhelpful. So there were 298 people here for Sunday School last week, and 365 for Service…. so what? How many of those 298 people were dragged there by a parent or a spouse? How many of those 365 people were healed, or encouraged, or convicted or blessed? Simply knowing that a person was present is sort of like earning a W by default (opposing team’s plane crashed.)
When we see that number 365, we should wonder what 365 stories lie behind it. Some may show us that God is really at work building something new in us, and bringing about real transformation. Others may be bad news, and prove that we have some fixing to do. And if just 1 of those 365 people happens to be a loud-mouthed, ego-maniacally divisive heretic, then you’ll wish you could tell people next week that you “ran” 364 last Sunday.
I’ve written posts before (here’s one, and here’s a sports-related one, no less) about the pitfalls of counting. So I’ll leave that alone. Maybe what we need instead is to re-evaluate our ideas of success and failure altogether, because we don’t even have access to the real stat-book. A football team can learn from a loss by checking the numbers, watching the film, and fixing their mistakes. But we never really get to learn (in this life) how many people we’ve actually blessed or cursed, encouraged or discouraged…. because God keeps most of those stats to himself. And the human record-book, despite its influence on church growth, discipleship, evangelism training, etc, is most certainly not to be trusted.
Yes, I get discouraged like anybody when the L’s start to stack up, and the W’s get lonely. But I’m not as concerned how people are counting my L’s and W’s, as I am that God can make each of my L’s and W’s really count.