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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Conversation with God re: The Lucky New York Giants

After catching the Giant's first touchdown of Super Bowl XLII, David Tyree counted his blessings. In an ulcerous fourth quarter, he caught a perfect bullet from Eli Manning down the middle of the end zone, putting the Giants up 10-7. Of course, he was the immediate subject of a Fox cameraman, who probably wasn't sure who had just caught the touchdown.

With the game ball held aloft, Tyree looked and said to the nation: "It's all God. It's all God, baby."

How DID Tyree appear out of nowhere that day? Though he credited God Almighty, let's be realistic: no doubt the game plan called for him, as he was offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's secret weapon that day. His abilities as receiver were not being watched.

Nice move, Gilbride, near brilliant.

But what abilities? Noted special teamer Tyree had not caught a touchdown all year long, and never achieved 300 season yards receiving. Yet, somehow, his road brought him to Super Bowl XLII, where he proceeded to join mighty company in the annals of football history.

No surprise that "it's all God; it's all God, baby" would be Tyree's instinctive reaction.

After all, many people still hold that the 2007 Giants team, on the whole, just got lucky that day, that the entire post season run and Super Bowl victory were mere flukes.

Not a day goes by on the internet without some comment to that effect.

I reject this, but yet there is no denying a measure of luck did favor the Giants late 2007. Some go further, incredulously, to say this very same luck assigned the Giants a 12-4 campaign in 2008.

So, are the Giants lucky, or are they not? Today, I look to one whose insight is beyond all partisan leaning.

Here's what God had to say.

Excerpt from Interview
ME: "So, God, did you have Tyree in mind that day?"

GOD: "Not exactly. Tyree walked a certain path that I laid out, not unlike many paths others have taken before him. Another man could easily have walked Tyree's path, or a woman, or to a different destination."

ME: "Eh, right."

GOD: "In life, people often stray from my paths, some never to return. Tyree got there that day."

ME: "But you do realize that, because you are God, you are in part responsible for that miracle play, when Eli Manning somehow escaped the turf and heaved..."

GOD: [interrupts] "Yes, I know. I have always known. Circumstances are superfluous to name here."

ME: "Yes, of course. I'm sorry."

GOD: "You are forgiven. Yet I will try to be more specific. Balance is critical to the world's design; tides rise and ebb, such that it never overwhelms."

ME: "Ah, you're talking about the notion of tension and release."

GOD: "Yes, very good. This, I know, is what humans find most captivating about sporting."

ME: "Please, God, I understand circumstances are superfluous to name here, but you said you would try to be more specific."

GOD: "Tyree's catch was but one moment in a balanced scheme of luck; it was no outlier. I demonstrate this by recounting two plays prior to and after that fateful catch:
  • Two plays prior, Manning nearly fumbles the football on a scramble;
  • One play prior, a pass to Tyree was in then through the hands of Asante Samuel, the opposition;
  • During 'The Catch,' Manning is almost sacked, Tyree almost loses the football, yet neither occurred;
  • Next play, Manning is sacked;
  • Next play, Manning throws into double coverage for Tyree, risking interception."
Me: "Wow, great specifics, God. If anything, by your recount, luck appeared to favor the Patriots, save for the actual Manning-to-Tyree miracle."

GOD: "I know. When people walk the paths I set for them in good faith—knowing or unknowing, witting or unwitting—miraculous things do happen; within balance, of course. I am an equal opportunity benefactor, favoring all yet none."

ME: "..."

GOD: "Walking a path in good faith—be it to me or yourself—is the source of good fortune. There is no such thing as coincidental luck, namely that Tyree got there that day, with that group of people in those circumstances."

ME: "Thank you, God, I will think on this. Now, let's get back to the meaning of life..."

GOD: "By all means."

I now realize that Tyree, Eli, and the Giants were no luckier than anyone else on that field; they simply utilized their luck better.

Luck is a fleeting resource you must seize immediately, or else waste. Think of luck as something you manage, namely that when it comes your way, you had better be ready for it.

Consider TWO really hot French women at a bar, let's say in Montreal. As your man-luck would have it, they both take a liking to you, approach, and suggest un menage a trois. Shocked into wussiness, you respond like a little boy, attraction dies off, and you have no one to blame but yourself for failing your own good luck.

Alone, luck only carries you so far. God recounted that the Patriots had plenty of lucky chances to derail the Giants' final scoring drive; they failed their luck, plain and simple, while the Giants did not.

As God plainly suggested, there is "no such thing as coincidental luck" because He is an "equal opportunity benefactor, favoring all yet none [within] in a scheme of balance."

Thus the key to understanding God's oracle lies less in theology, and more in recognizing how luck actually works.

Luck only favors those who can capitalize on it. In professional sports, this does not come easy. If you were a lesser quarterback than Eli Manning, or else a lesser receiver than David Tyree, all that good luck in Super Bowl XLII might have gone right over your helmet (pun), or sacked into the turf.

However lucky, victory in football is not like winning the lottery. With every day's training and hard work, professional athletes get closer and closer to mastering luck. They do so by having faith and believing in themselves, namely their abilities and potential for greatness.

This is what God meant by the notion that "walking a path in good faith—be it to me or yourself—is the source of good fortune." Whether it is Eli Manning facing the red meat New York media his whole career, or David Tyree staying on the long path of hard work and little glory, they both persevered and thrived.

Luck favors these men because they have earned it. This is precisely why you and I will probably never win the lottery, for we can only be victims of luck, not its masters.

Nevertheless, two years on, many people still write off the Giants' Super Bowl victory as mere, unmerited luck. This is nonsense, yet it does not surprise me. As I observed elsewhere, in a society that worships microwaved celebrities a la American Idol, luck becomes an end all to itself and is thereby rendered meaningless.

I pity the people who honestly think the 2007 Giants "just got lucky," as I suspect they may have trouble appreciating life's finer depths. I would double down on this suspicion for people who write off the Giants' 2008 campaign in the same way.

Luck did not target Tyree, Eli, or the Giants, but rather that they targeted the luck. Yes, they got lucky, but capitalizing on luck of such high order demands skill, integrity, dedication, poise, and generally hard work. After all, they were pitted against Tom Brady and the indomitable 2007 Patriots.

And won.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky, too, than MERELY good.
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