Post Spirituality

            It has been ten days since the Chicago Bears suffered a heart breaking loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.  It was heart breaking in many ways, but especially because of how they lost.  With seconds to go and a chance to win the game with a 43 yard field goal, Bears’ kicker Cody Parkey’s bid bounced of the left upright, then fell down and bounced off the crossbar, only to fall back into the field of play as a failed attempt.  As TV commentator Chris Collinsworth phrased it (in vernacular that will now be a part of Chicago sports lore), “Oh my goodness, the Bears season is going to end on a double-doink.”

            The Bears season may have come to end, but the last several days have shown us that the post season is far from over.  Parkey’s failed kick off the goal posts is still being talked about, written about, and analyzed from all different trajectories beyond the failed flight of the ball.  I have been amazed at not only the fan and media reaction, but also by those who want to use his kick as their own platform on a variety of subjects.

            One writer for the Chicago Tribune whose columns focus on parenting matters thanked Parkey for “teaching her children the best life lesson of all regarding the true meaning of sports.”  One pastor and missionary used the vilifying reaction to Parkey from some of the fan base as an opportunity to draw parallels to the OT concept of the scapegoat, even using it as a platform to show how Jesus was the ultimate scapegoat, as His blood was innocently shed on behalf of others. 

            Needless to say, there are a fair number of Chicagoans who are out for blood, especially after Parkey’s appearance on the Today Show a mere five days after the crushing loss.  Parkey said some very admirable things during his five minute interview.  He owned the fact that he let his teammates down, his city down, and that it was a terrible feeling.  He also said that his life was much more than football, and that he “wasn’t defined by this moment or his career.”  His words launched the commentaries written above, and a host of others.  But I think we should use some restraint in extracting “teachable moments” from Parkey’s interviews and reaction to his failure.

            As someone who is known to frequently interject sports into his sermons (and take a good natured ribbing for it from time to time), I believe the reactions to Parkey’s performance remind us that we should be judicious in how we use sports (and other aspects of life) as object lessons. Yes, there are many spiritual insights to be gained from both the objects and situations of our lives.  Jesus used both very effectively in His teaching and true life lessons.  He told parables using plants and seeds and soil, and many other objects of nature and life.  And yes, He also used human situations and predicaments as teaching platforms.  He cited examples involving events and dynamics between family members, owners and tenants, religious leaders and the less devout.  But what we need to keep in mind is that when Jesus alluded to such incidents to illustrate His teaching, there was unified understanding.  Yes, the same understanding that brought anger to some brought vindication to others, but there was no doubt as to what the point of the reference was, and to whom it pointed to.

            I definitely am not ready to say that about what unfolded two Sunday nights ago.  The kick itself, and the reaction of the fans and the commentators and Parkey himself, are far too nuanced to be held up as an example for any one particular teaching moment with unified understanding.  For every person who responded positively to Parkey’s comments and TV interview, you will find a Chicagoan who felt like he rather selfishly used his own failure as a platform to promote himself (even if graciously in failure), way too soon.  Many have questioned the timing and motive for how Parkey was choosing to put salve on his own hurts while his teammates, coaches, city, and fan base were still feeling the sting of the loss.

            At a press conference held on Monday, Bears head coach Matt Nagy was asked about his reaction and sanction of Parkey’s Today Show appearance.  Nagy’s few words in response spoke volumes:  “We always talk about a ‘we’ and not a ‘me,’ thing,” Nagy said.  “I didn’t think that was too much of a ‘we’ thing.”  You don’t have to read between the line of Nagy’s comment to see that in the eyes of the coaches and his teammates, they were much more disappointed with what he did in front of the camera than what he did on the field. 

            Immediately following the game, not one of them blamed him for the loss, nor mentioned the two other games in which his misses cost them a chance at winning not only those games, but securing a much more favorable spot in the playoffs.  Not one of his teammates mentioned how he missed eleven other times during the year, or was the second worst kicker in the league.  His teammates had his back when he sat in the locker room after the game and took full responsibility for the loss as he was interviewed by the media. But one wonders what his teammates said behind his back when he sat in the interview chair only five days later and was interviewed by the hosts of the Today Show.

            Life goes on, and for now, so does the post season of Cody Parkey.  But let’s hope it ends soon.  I suppose the public opinion about Parkey and his ill-fated kick will always be anything but unanimous, and that is why any biblical or spiritual parallels to him and his situation should be approached with caution.  One thing is for certain, thanks to Chris Collinsworth, we now have a new phrase forever linked with the 2019 Bears playoff exit.  Perhaps we could all move on more quickly from the Bears heartbreaking loss if our other major sports teams in action now weren’t having such rough years.  Unfortunately, “double doink” appears to be an apt description of their seasons as well. 


George Garrison