Football player Earnest Byner will forever be linked with The Fumble. What is The Fumble? Any rabid NFL fan will tell you that it was the turning point of the AFC Championship game between the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos on January 17, 1988 at Denver’s Mile High Stadium.
With 1:12 left in the game, running back Byner appeared to be on his way to scoring the game-tying touchdown, but was stripped of the ball by Broncos defensive back Jeremiah Castille, and fumbled at the 3-yard line. Denver recovered the fumble and Cleveland ended up losing 38-33, another heartbreaking defeat for a city renowned for them.
Byner went on to have an outstanding NFL career that included a Super Bowl championship with the Washington Redskins. At the time of his retirement in 1997, Byner ranked within the NFL’s top 30 all-time leaders in rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards and total yards.
Why am I writing about football? Because of the way Byner handled his notoriety. He was devastated at first but eventually came to see the value of such a public, humiliating failure. On the August 27, 2009 edition of the nationally syndicated Jim Rome Show, Byner said:
It was really a spiritual thing that I had to go through to kind of forgive myself for not being successful in that particular instance in my life. The reality is, it stuck with me probably about three, four years. And the thing that was most difficult, I didn’t handle it the way I should have handled it. I let other people paint a picture of me and how that should have affected me. Guys were telling jokes, I was the butt of jokes on talk shows and all that kind of stuff. And finally, I just had to say, hey, that was one play in my career, it was a tough situation, I learned from it and I was able to go on and use it as impetus to go on and become a champion with Washington.
But the reality is, that play helped me to be a better person, a better coach, a better father, and gave me some empathy for other people who do not have the success that I have. And the other part of it is everybody screws up at some point, everybody’s going to mess up, but you got to understand that you will fail at some point at something. You will fail. But you can’t let the failure be the end result. Learn from the failure, grow form it, and actually use it to help someone else get past something that they’re going through.
Obviously, you don’t want to go through anything difficult. I mean, nobody’s going to lie to you about that. Nobody wants pain and agony, because that’s what I lived with for a while, was actually having that failure. But again, it built me up, gave me more character, gave me more perseverance. It helped me in the long run.
Wise words. We all can learn from Byner’s example. Our greatest lessons are often embedded in our greatest pain. Every staggering loss we have endured has played a major role in shaping who we are. Pain and purpose walk hand in hand.
Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
Rainer Maria Rilke
ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.
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