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Thousands of Saints fans have been very vocal about the Saints’ loss in the playoffs. They say they were robbed of an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl due to a game-changing missed call by a referee.

Football fans around the world have seen the response from players who were impacted by such a huge loss: sullen faces, tears and a painful press conference where the magnitude of the loss got drilled down even further.

So after Drew Brees’ loss to the Rams in the playoff game, one might expect him to be off somewhere alone, licking his wounds; that is, if you don’t know Drew Brees.

Facebook user John McGovern, who was actually at the game, posted the following statement, along with a picture.

“This has been on my mind all day… I don’t know who took this picture but I am in the group of people up against the wall to the right of the goal post. A couple hours after the game was over and the cameras were all gone, I stood and watched a man who was without a doubt THE most affected by the inexcusably ignored event that changed an entire season put everything aside and take care of what is most important. Most people would have wanted to go home and not even speak to anyone. Instead, he laughed and played with his kids and as seen here even held a football for his son to kick a field goal. If kids are looking for a professional athlete to look up to, they can find no one better than this man. Drew Brees makes me very proud to be a New Orleans Saints fan.”

Perhaps his children knew how big this loss was for their father, but it’s quite possible they had no clue because of how Brees handled the situation. In fact, Brees has been quoted before reminding people that at the end of the day, it’s a game.

The true character of a man reveals itself in the most challenging and difficult moments. Children young and old pay attention and take Dad’s lead.

Sometimes it’s hard to separate one’s identity from these situations or to not take it personally, but what we do in the face of adversity teaches children important lessons like how to deal with disappointment, placing value on what matters and how to handle failure. 

Here are three takeaways from watching Drew Brees interact with his kids after the controversial ending to the football game.

  • Deal with extreme disappointment in a healthy way. Disappointment is inevitable. When dads model how to walk through disappointment, talk about it, work through it and move forward, they are showing their children how to encounter and deal with hard situations.
  • Place value on the things that really matter. How Dad deals with his relationships when he experiences disappointment sends a powerful message about what he values most. The fact that Brees was out on the field playing and laughing with his children after such a huge loss lets his kids know they are more important than a game. Whether they innately understand that today or figure it out a few years from now, it is a powerful play for sure.
  • Don’t allow failure (real or imagined) to define you. Sometimes it’s really tempting to allow failure to invade your DNA and define who you are as a person. The most important lesson about failure is that it is not final. It is a moment in time where one has an opportunity to glean important and helpful life lessons for the future.

Whether it’s a disagreement with their spouse, a toxic work situation, a car that breaks down, a financial setback or the loss of a championship game that was seemingly stripped right out of his hands, how Dad responds sends a powerful message to his children about what matters most in life.

Photo Credit: Heather Cohen

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 3, 2019.

When Buddy Curry was a professional football player, he thought life was all about him.

“I made up my mind to have as much fun as possible,” said Curry, former Falcon inside linebacker and 1980 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Toward the end of my 8-year career, all the things I had been doing didn’t seem fun. I wanted a relationship and to settle down.”

When Curry met the woman he would marry, he described himself as young and selfish.

“When we got married I had no clue how to be married,” Curry said. “As an athlete, I had been coddled. Most of the time I got what I wanted and like other athletes I thought the rules applied to everybody but me.”

Within three years the Currys’ marriage was in crisis.

“Every time I saw my wife do something wrong I called her out,” Curry recalled. “I was critical and I hurt her very deeply. Although people loved me because I was a pretty good guy, the state of my marriage made me step back and consider how I would learn to be a good husband and father. I knew I was not strong enough to make the necessary transformation by myself.”

Curry sought out older and wiser men to mentor him—men who would hold him accountable as well as encourage him as a husband and father. Instead of being critical toward his wife, he began serving her.

“Even though she very clearly wanted out of the marriage, I made a decision to learn new ways of relating to her,” Curry said. “My goal was to bless her and allow time for healing in our relationship.”

A pivotal moment in Curry’s life came with the birth of their first son. When he laid eyes on his child, he began thinking, “Do I want my son to be like me?” While he thought he had a lot of things going right in his life, he really didn’t think he wanted his son to be like him.

“I had been making a lot of changes in my life for the better,” Curry said. “When my son was born, I realized there were other areas that needed some attention. Realizing that my children are going to follow me was eye-opening.”

The Currys now have four children.

“Being a father has taught me about my own weaknesses,” Curry said. “I recognize that there is a generational transfer taking place and that I am sending my children into the future. I’d like to help my kids not make the same mistakes I made. I want them to understand the importance of self-discipline, what commitment to something means – even when the going gets tough. I want to teach them how to be a good team player.”

One of the most important lessons Curry learned is that you can have the best of intentions for your marriage and your family, but unless you’re willing to invest the time to make those things happen, it’s just wishful thinking. No amount of success in the world can make up for failure at home.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

I just experienced one of the most important days in the life of my youngest son. It was his football team’s Super Bowl game. This year marked their 3rd trip in a row and this season has been one of their best. They went undefeated in the regular season and claimed victory to one playoff game. Unfortunately, the did NOT win the Super Bowl. Did they play hard? You bet. They pushed until the very end, creating a 0–0 tie on the scoreboard and forcing the game to go to OT (overtime). The team they played has been their rivals for the past 3 years.

This taught my son a very difficult lesson. No matter your record, you win some and you lose some.

His 10-year-old heart was broken. I, as his mother, struggled with understanding his brokenness, because to me it really is just a game. No one asks you as an adult if you won your little league SuperBowl when you were ten. I applauded his team spirit and his effort in the game.

I also applauded his coaches. Each one is a father/husband/significant other/employee who takes time away from their family and responsibilities to pour into my son and the other boys on the team. These coaches show them the importance of teamwork, sacrifice, defeat with hope, victory with grace and true character.

My son plays little league football because he loves the game, not because I see a future for him on a professional football team. He plays because I see the values that football or any other organized sport teaches. He’s learned respect for authority. He’s learned that your teammates need you to do your job. He’s learned that other adults, besides his mom and dad, really do care about him and his success.

Despite the fact that the score said his team lost, in my eyes, they won. They won by sticking together as a team. They won by showing appropriate emotions. They won because their coaches encouraged and celebrated them in defeat. They won because they see the examples of husbands, fathers and employees giving back. I hope that one day my 10-year-old will look back and see this as a win because of the lessons he learned from these men and from this game, not from the scoreboard.

If you happen to be a Tennessee or UTC fan, it has been painful to watch both football teams struggle to even get on the scoreboard. There’s usually a lot of armchair quarterbacking and coaching going on anyway, but now it has reached a fever pitch. People are calling for the coaches’ jobs and trash-talking team members.

Don’t think it is about just these two schools. We could all list coaches who have been fired because of a losing season. One coach commented that it’s always interesting when the fate of one’s career rests in the hands of 18- to 22-year-olds. 

After a weekend of tough losses in college football, this post appeared on Facebook:

“ … I grew up in a house where my Daddy was born and raised an Alabama boy and my Mama was born and raised a Tennessee girl. We never ever talked trash. Did we have healthy teasing? Sure! But never ugly at all! I also grew up with my Daddy being a referee and was taught to show respect to the umpire or referee and to never EVER run my mouth. What I have found is we have a stadium full of disrespectful people who boo kids, coaches and referees and could care less what anyone thinks. 

“ … I challenge anyone who has ever played a competitive sport to stop and think. Did you ever think, man I can’t wait to go out and suck today?! NO! Not once did I ever think that and I bet there isn’t another athlete OR COACH who has either! How about your boss?! How about if you messed up or if your team messed up and people started screaming for your job!? Tonight I hurt for a couple who I met and know are amazing because I know their love for these kids. So scream all you want but maybe just maybe it might be about more than points on a scoreboard. Maybe it’s about a family, a kid who did their best but still isn’t good enough but had so much pressure.” 

This post brings up a really great point – what exactly are these kids doing? Is there more to this picture than winning and the fact that college athletics is big business that brings in money for the school? Every institution of higher learning would probably say their goal is to produce successful leaders, and for their athletes to graduate. They understand that very few of their athletes will go on to play professional sports. 

It’s helpful to know that the prefrontal cortex of the brain where mental control and self-regulation takes place isn’t fully formed until around age 25. These coaches and their staff are taking kids who are still maturing and not only helping them develop as players, but as people. They spend a lot of time making sure team players have access to helpful resources for academics, character development, personal boundaries and decision-making. 

Family members of coaches or players on the field also feel the sting of the boos from supposed fans when their family member or their team isn’t having a good game. Even some coaches’ family members experience ruthless bullying. People talk about players on social media as if they were NFL professionals, when in reality they are 18- to 22-year-olds.  

So, what exactly is college football or any other collegiate sport really about? 

When Kansas State University Head Coach Bill Snyder took over the football program in 1989, he took over the “worst NCAA Division 1 football program on planet Earth.” The team is now ranked third in the Big 12 Conference. In his book, They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, Snyder outlines how he transformed a losing team into a winning team with his 16 goals for success.

Here’s the list:

  1. Commitment – To common goals and to being successful.
  2. Unselfishness – There is no “I” in TEAM
  3. Unity – Come together as never before.
  4. Improve – Everyday … as a player, person and student.
  5. Be tough – Mentally and physically.
  6. Self-discipline – Do it right, don’t accept less.
  7. Great effort.
  8. Enthusiasm
  9. Eliminate mistakes – Don’t beat yourself.
  10. Never give up.
  11. Don’t accept losing – If you do so one time, it will be easy to do so for the rest of your life.
  12. No self-limitations – Expect more of yourself.
  13. Expect to win – And truly believe we will.
  14. Consistency – Your very, very best every time.
  15. Leadership – Everyone can set an example.
  16. Responsibility – You are responsible for your own performance.

Snyder’s list is clearly about far more than football – it’s about life. It’s about helping young men who are playing football to be winners in life, to understand a commitment to something they believe matters and to pursue excellence in their accomplishments. It’s also about helping these men understand what it means to persist against the odds, teaching them how to pick themselves up after making a mistake and carry on, and showing them what it looks like to give their best. This mindset can lead to a life of success off the field, on the job and in all of life’s relationships.

Every year on Super Bowl Sunday, both hard-working teams hope to carry the trophy home to their city. And they’ll do everything they can to win the game.

As in any sport, there will be plays and penalties that the other team thinks are unfair or just plain wrong. From holding and pass interference to offsides or encroachment, the teams can argue all they want. But the referee makes the final call.

How many times have you disagreed with your spouse and longed for a referee to decide who is right or wrong? When two people come together in marriage with their own ideas about the rules, it affects everything. It’s how bills stack up on the counter and don’t get paid, toilets stay dirty and laundry sits in the hamper. The reason? Each person assumes it is the other person’s job. When things go wrong, penalty flags fly and tempers often flare because both parties believe they are right. After all, that’s how it worked in their childhood home.

It’s funny how nobody enters into marriage talking about being on opposing teams. In fact, if you ask engaged couples about potential areas of conflict, they typically respond, “We can’t think of anything! But, if we do encounter something we are sure we can work through it.”

Then it happens. He commits a personal foul when he leaves his socks on the floor. She commits an illegal procedure when she buys something expensive without discussing it first. In moments like these, partners see each other as adversaries instead of teammates. What happens now?

A personal referee could be really helpful, but that’s not reality. So here are some tips for bringing home the big prize for your relationship:

  • Even when you feel like an infraction has occurred, remember you are on the same team.
  • Whether you are preparing for marriage or already married, using the same playbook really helps. But people often enter relationships with different ones. Each playbook is filled with many unspoken expectations and rules. Unfortunately, when you don’t know what the rules are, there are penalties. You may not even have no clue what you did wrong. Topics that usually create issues include: how you think about money, whether or not to have children, how to engage the in-laws, career goals, sex, friendships, and how to care for and build each other up – both individually and as a team.
  • A winning team never forgets – learning and perfecting the fundamentals is important. In healthy relationships, the basics include healthy communication, effective conflict management and clear expectations.
  • Finally, a team who is set on winning will stop at nothing in order to prepare for the win. They don’t hesitate to seek help in trouble spots because they want to take home the trophy. A winning marriage is no different.

Teams that make it to the Super Bowl don’t get there by chance. They spend hours learning the plays, and they experience wins and painful losses together. The teams face challenges with other players, deal with personal injuries and more. Ultimately, they always remember they are teammates who share vision to make it into the end zone.

That’s also the key to having a winning marriage.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 5, 2017.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***