In the final 35 seconds of Super Bowl XLIX, when Seahawk Jermaine Kearse made his amazing catch, my youngest came up to me with big round fearful eyes and said, "Mom, I don't think the Patriots are going to win this."
Remember those last 35 seconds? I should say — the five seconds before the last 30? It looked pretty grim for the home team. Seattle was on the 1-yard line, just about to score the touchdown that would give the Seahawks the whole ballgame.
I took my son's hand and said, "Don't give up on them. They haven't given up on themselves; you can't give up on them."
We all know what happened next. The Malcolm Butler interception, the crazy change of fortune, the thrill of Patriot victory. Wonderful, awesome, amazing! But it soon became clear that the lesson my son took from that day was "The Patriots always win."
That lesson stayed true — for the first 10 games of this football season. Not so much for some of the last few, though, and soon my boy couldn't bear to watch anymore. In his 11 years, our Patriots haven't lost too often; they've mostly upheld the lesson my son took from last February 1. But I think it's the wrong lesson. To me, it's much more interesting to watch what the Patriots do when they're losing.
I got into football four years ago, during the 18 months I spent regaining the ability to walk. At first I just loved how the referees would confer over obscure rules, the extreme reversals of fortune, watching the physical feats these players could perform. But thinking about my son and the lesson he internalized — that the Patriots always win — I've realized I love something else: Even when they're losing, especially when they're losing, the Patriots do not give up. Period.
And even though I'm not in Patriots fighting form, even though I'm a fortysomething woman with a tendon condition that often limits the abilities of my hands, arms, and legs, I've realized something else: I'm like the Patriots.
When an opponent intercepts the ball, or Tom Brady is sacked, or they end up with a three-and-out, they get back up, try a different play, find a new formation. When my physical limitations stop me from going in one direction, I look around for something else to try. For example, during the summer of 2014, when I had 5 percent use of both thumb tendons and couldn't twirl spaghetti on a fork or pour my own coffee, I asked myself: While I'm not cooking or keeping house, what can I be doing? The answer that bubbled up was to use my mind, my heart, and my voice — so instead of feeling guilty that I couldn't fold laundry or chop vegetables, I learned about public speaking, podcasting, and how to use speech-recognition software.
I'm a high achiever, just like the players and the coaches of my beloved Patriots. I see my struggles reflected in theirs; the anger on Julian Edelman's face when he broke that bone in his foot and could no longer do his job? I know that anger, that sense of frustration. I know exactly how he felt as he patiently healed, building up strength, waiting for his chance to get back out on the field and do his job.
Of course, we fans want the Patriots to win, as they did against the Chiefs, bringing us to this AFC Championship game. But it's not always about winning; it's about persistence, recovery, not giving up.
Between the examples he gets from the Patriots and his mom, I hope to change the lesson my 11-year-old takes from "My team always wins" to "What can I try when I'm losing?"
The Pats and I, and all of us, we take a drubbing. We get up and try again, and again.
We love what we do, and we do our job.
Karen Lock Kolp helps parents worry less and enjoy more with her podcast, "We Turned Out Okay." Send comments to email@example.com.
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