As we talk about older adult potential, we sometimes hear this admonishment: “Don’t settle for the sidelines. Get back on the field.”
But men over fifty are not likely to make their way back to the NFL's playing field. Oakland Raiders' legendary kicker and quarterback, George Blanda, retired just shy of his 49th birthday. No NFL player has outlasted Blanda … yet.
Tom Brady, at forty, is well beyond the typical QB retiring age. We love seeing these decades-younger ‘older athletes' excel, still young enough to lead their teams to victory ... or come awfully close.
We know longevity in professional sports is different than life, but there comes a time when the sidelines become a better fit than the playing field. While no one shows up for a game just to watch the sidelines, there is a whole lot of meaningful activity going on just beyond those out-of-bounds markers.
Cameras will often shift attention to the sidelines to focus on an inspiring coach, an injured player, athletic trainers, other players reviewing plays and waiting for their opportunity go back on the field. And camera operators themselves don’t set foot on the playing field during the game. Most of us wouldn’t see the game without those off-field cameras.
I like how YES! supporter Phil Oates framed it in his endorsement of Half Two, “Retirement does not mean sitting on the sidelines. Slowing down does not mean stopping.”
We know some people bemoan the fact that they’re no longer in the limelight, no longer a key on-the-field player. But off the playing field doesn’t mean God is finished with us. There are so many key, vitally important roles waiting for us—off the field.
This past Sunday’s Super Bowl was personally exciting and meaningful. Until the 2017 season, I’ve never been an Eagles fan. But when Nate Sudfeld joined their roster earlier this season, I suddenly found myself rooting for this East Coast team. Nate is the son of Ralph and Michelle Sudfeld. Michelle served on our YES! board of directors for three years. Nate’s grandfather, Bob Pagett, is the former pastor of Christian Life Center, our home church. He and his wife, Char, are founders of Assist International.
Nate was the backup quarterback to Nick Foles, MVP of this year’s Super Bowl. While Nick got most of the accolades Sunday, sideline quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nate Sudfeld knew their roles were significant, too. While valiantly leading the Eagles to the playoffs, Wentz had a season-ending injury in December, causing Foles to step from the sidelines onto the playing field. 24-year-old Nate stood on the sidelines, offering encouragement and support, fully engaged and ready if needed to take center stage in professional football's premiere event.
All three Eagle quarterbacks are deeply committed Christians, and their faith helps shape how they live both on and off the field.
Seeing Ralph and Michelle’s excitement over their son’s involvement on the 2018 World Champions team reinforces for me how important sideline roles can be.
God may not have you on the playing field right now. But know you still have an important role to play. It may be on the sidelines. It may be in the stands. Stay alert … stand if you are able. Celebrate being on the winning team. God is not finished with us yet!