Good morning, I'm the Rev Steve Page from St Patrick's Anglican Church, and you're listening to the Daily Devotional moment, sponsored by the Hudson Bay Ministerial.
This month, I'm drawing our images of Christian faith and spirituality from the wonderful and sometimes weird world of Sports. With the Super Bowl just around the corner, let's talk football today.
Going through an entire football season without a single loss or tie is a very challenging task. If a team does win every single game they play, it's called a Perfect Season.
The closest anyone has come in Canadian football is 1948, when the Calgary Stampeders were a perfect 12-0 during the regular season, and had 2 wins and a tie in the playoffs to finish with 14 wins, no losses, and 1 tie. How did they get a tie in the playoffs, you ask? Back then, the divisional finals were a 2-game home-and-home series, with the team scoring the most total points advancing to the Grey Cup. Calgary tied the Saskatchewan Roughriders 4 - 4 in the first game, then returned home and dominated the second game to advance to the Cup, where they beat the Ottawa Rough Riders 12-7.
The NFL had a recent almost-perfect season, when the New England Patriots in 2007 won all 16 regular season games and the first 2 playoff games, before losing to the New York Giants in a thriller of a Super Bowl.
But there has been one perfect, no-loss, no-tie season in the NFL. The 1972 Miami Dolphins went 14-0 in the regular season, and their first 2 playoff games to advance to the Super Bowl. There, they met the Washington Redskins. A Miami win would give them the perfect season.
Both teams had powerful defences, who made the day miserable for the offensive players. Miami only managed 12 first downs, and Washington barely topped 200 total yards. In fact, that game is the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. But behind their 3-headed rushing machine of Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Mercury Morris, the Miami Dolphins did enough to hold a 14-0 lead late in the game.
Perfection was in reach! With just over 2 minutes to play, they lined up for a 42-yard field goal that would ice the game. But a Washington player got a hand on it and blocked the kick! Miami kicker Garo Yepremian got to the loose ball first, but instead of just falling on it, he grabbed the ball and tried to pass to another Miami player. Unfortunately, the ball slipped comically out of his hand, almost straight up in the air.
Redskins player Mike Bass caught it and ran 49 yards into the end zone for the touchdown! So the score was now Miami 14 Washington 7. After the kickoff, their defence forced Miami to punt. Washington got the ball back at their 36 yard line with 1:14 to play. If they could get into the end zone and score, Miami's perfect season would be in trouble.
Fortunately for the Dolphins and their fans, their defence held fast, and when the clock hit 0, Miami had the Super Bowl victory and the only perfect season in NFL history!
You know, in the Gospel of Matthew (5:48), Jesus ends a list of very challenging instructions on how we are meant to live by saying, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Gee, no pressure! How are you doing at being perfect?
Jesus is giving a variation on the words God spoke in Leviticus (19:2) “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” And the apostle Paul picks up on this theme, too, when he writes in one of his letters (Eph 5:1,2) “Follow God's example, ... walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” God, Jesus, Paul, they all urge us to be careful how we live, making Christ our pattern for living.
My prayer for you is that every day brings you another step closer to perfection, that each day you will grow closer to God, will experience God's awesome love and grace, and will come to look more and more like our Holy and Perfect God in all you say and do.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.