Ode to Tony Romo (aka What If?)
Twenty-three years ago today - January 28, 1996 - the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. It was the Cowboys eighth appearance in the "big game," their third win in four years, and their fifth Lombardi trophy... at the time, an NFL franchise record. (The Steelers have since won their sixth championship, with the Patriots playing for their sixth this coming Sunday).
Things were looking pretty good for Big D.
Now, for those who know me even just a little, you know that from this point on in this post, there will be no more praises for large men wearing stars on their helmets, because I am an avowed "Anti-Cowboy."
In fact, in the almost twenty years I played fantasy football, I only had one rule when drafting:
Never draft a Cowboy.
And I never did.
So, it is with complete dry eyes that I share the news that over the last twenty-three years, "America's Team" has been to a total of zero Super Bowls.
(By the way, the Patriots have been to ten of 'em during the same period of time... just saying.)
Not only that... they haven't even been to a single NFC title game for the chance to get to the Super Bowl.
Now, I don't pick my friends based on their team allegiances. It might influence whether we watch the game together, but never my friendships. So, over the last twenty years, I have heard quite a few "what ifs" from my friends who are, if nothing, loyal fans.
(Please be sure to read the following with some passion in your voice, if not also a bit of whining.)
"What if Jerry Jones (owner) and Jimmy Johnson (former head coach) had both just set aside their massive egos and learned how to love one another... or at least live together? How good could the Cowboys have been?"
"What if Tony Romo hadn't fumbled the snap on the potential game-winning field goal against Seattle in the 2006 NFC semi-final?" (This, along with Jessica Simpson and the next "what if" would, I believe unfairly, define Romo's career.)
"What if Dez Bryant's 'no catch' against the Packers in the 2014 playoffs had been ruled what it actually was... a catch?"
I agree completely. No doubt about it. It was a catch. (Oh, my goodness! Please tell me I didn't just say that out loud.)
You know, I have my own "what-if's" about the same date in history, and they have nothing to do with football. On January 28, 1996, I didn't even watch the Super Bowl.
That's because that was also the day my dad died.
Twenty-three years ago today... the day after his 60th birthday... four days after the doctor had told him that he had "six months or less to live"... while I was preaching a sermon in Reidsville about "Jesus and the Hurting" less than fifty miles away, my father passed from this life... and with him, my greatest earthly influence.
Again, I have a collection of "what ifs"?
"What if my father had been successful in one of his many attempts to quit smoking in the years before he developed lung cancer?"
"What if, after his diagnosis and ensuing surgery, his follow-up treatment had included any type of chemotherapy or radiation?"
"What if he had lived long enough for his grandchildren, including my own son, to know him and his incredible influence?"
But my greatest "what if" is easily, "What if I had just left the church when I got the call that morning (even though there was nothing to suggest that he would die that day, much less in a few hours)? Why in the world did I stay?
It wasn't because the church didn't give me the opportunity to leave. They did.
But I didn't.
And so, by the time I drove the hour to Forsyth Hospital, my dad was gone.
Twenty-three years later, I am stilled plagued with the "what ifs."
Only recently... surprisingly, only recently did it dawn on me where these "what ifs" come from.
They come from my accuser. They come from the one who not only accuses me of my sin before the Father (Revelation 12:10), but who also whispers (and sometimes even shouts) at me the accusations of "What if?"
This coming Sunday, I am teaching about Jesus' three temptations (Matthew 4:1-11). While Satan never accused Jesus with a "What if?" from His past, he does begin the first two temptations with a question: "If you are the Son of God..."
In other words, he tries to get Jesus to doubt His own identity.
Doesn't he do the exact same thing to us with every "Woulda, shoulda, coulda?" Every time Satan gets us to focus on our past, our mistakes, and our failures, in part, he causes us to forget who we are.
We are loved. (John 3:16)
We are accepted. (Romans 15:7)
We are forgiven. (Colossians 1:13-14)
We are shown grace beyond anything that we deserve. (Psalm 103:10-12)
Any accusation that tells us otherwise is nothing but a lie.
It's natural to regret our mistakes... to want to go back in time and change things, or fix things, or do things differently... but we can't.
We would, if we could... but we just can't.
Thankfully, the One Who holds not just our present and future, but also our past, He calls us to...
"... focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT)
And trust me, that's a prize beyond anything that's going to be handed out on Sunday!
Side note: I'm really looking forward to Tony Romo's color commentary this weekend. He did such a great job last week, seeming to know exactly what play was coming next, that I was sort of surprised he didn't win more games as a quarterback.
(Oops, did I say that out loud?)