My fantasy football buddies hesitated to invite me over for the Super Bowl. They know I only cheer for two football teams: the Seahawks, and whoever’s playing the Patriots.
Yeah, Super Bowl Sunday with me was liable to be about as much fun as a post-burrito donkey ride up a steep cliff with Cersei Lannister.
Not that I hadn’t had a great time watching the Eagles play all season (and plenty of fun times in Philly back in the day).
But they had no possible chance of taking down Saint Freaking Brady.
That’s what I thought. That’s what Vegas and ESPN and every kid in Boston thought.
Enter Nick Foles.
Nick Foles was about to give Tom Brady — and me — the lesson of a lifetime.
Always be ready to play. Always.
Just two years ago, Foles had almost decided to retire. He was only 26, but his future in the NFL looked bleak. He was a permanent back-up player, overlooked and unrecognized.
How many times have I been ready to quit? To give up on being a writer, because I’ll never be a star? To go back to the 9-to-5 life and just write cute emails to the grandkids?
How many times have I let myself believe that outside recognition was the only true indication of talent, drive or worthiness?
Too many times to count.
He decided, instead, to be grateful for any chance to play. He decided to embrace his role as the second-stringer, the insurance policy for the stud. He decided to always be ready to play. Anytime, any game.
He trained longer and studied harder than he ever had. He spent long days in the gym conditioning, long hours watching film, long nights learning to calm and center himself.
He showed up, every day, ready to do his best work. Even if no one cheered.
I can do that. I can publish my work, engage my readers, hone my skills. I can study and learn and practice. I can stop worrying about who’s getting the interviews, and just create. I can show up every day and do my best work. I can trust the process.
When Carson Wentz went down injured, Foles was ready to play. All the way to the Super Bowl.
“I was really staying in the moment,” Foles said after the big game. “Just staying in the moment.”
I wanna be like Nick. I want to stay in the moment. Put my helmet on and power through. Keep moving toward my goal line, whether the critics notice me or not.
When nobody — and I mean nobody — thinks you can win, you’ve got nothing to lose.
There’s no reason to hold back, to play it safe, to keep something in reserve.
No reason not to heave a long pass all the way to the end zone.
No reason not to run a fake audible wildcat reverse pass for a touchdown.
No reason not to join that writers’ group, take that online class, open my work to peer critiques. No reason not to upload my wildest stories, take a 30-day writing challenge, submit to that publisher I think is out of my league.
4th & goal? Go for it.
Hit the mute button on your inner critic.
You know, that voice in your head with the constant chatter:
You’re only the back-up.
You’ll never be as good as that other guy.
Who do you think you are anyway?
I can silence my interior critic the same way I mute the fawning-over-Brady sportscasters. Turn the volume all the way down. Call the plays and write the script. I don’t need a voice-over.
And remember: even if a 3-time MVP, future Hall of Fame, married-to-a-supermodel, multi-gazillion-dollar quarterback can’t be bothered to shake your hand after the game, you’re still a winner. A champion.
Because when the time came to take your shot, you were ready.
Thank you, Nick Foles. And good night Chris Collinsworth, wherever you are.