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Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV: How the temporal can change the eternal

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, and quarterback Tom Brady celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, and quarterback Tom Brady celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Even before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday in Super Bowl LV, the game had made history in a variety of ways:

  • The game was the first time a team (in this case, Tampa Bay) played at their home stadium.
  • The two quarterbacks featured the largest age gap ever in the big game—eighteen years and forty-five days. The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes is twenty-five years old, while the Buccaneers’ Tom Brady is forty-three years old.
  • Brady has now won seven Super Bowls, more than any player or team in NFL history.
  • Bruce Arians, the Buccaneers’ head coach, became the oldest to win a Super Bowl at sixty-eight years of age.
  • Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl game.
  • There were only 25,000 fans in the stadium due to coronavirus precautions. However, there were 30,000 cutouts in the stands.

Tom Brady’s story is especially unique. Consider these all-time playoff records

  • He made his tenth Super Bowl appearance yesterday. No other player has appeared in more than six.
  • He has now appeared in fourteen different AFC or NFC title games, twice as many as Joe Montana (who ranks second). Brady has won ten.
  • He made his third Super Bowl start since turning forty; no other quarterback has made it to the big game in his forties.
  • After last night’s game, he has now been named Super Bowl MVP five times.

Not to mention the fact that he has won more regular-season and playoff games and thrown more regular season and playoff touchdowns than any player in history. 

On the other hand, through the first forty-six games of his career, Patrick Mahomes is ahead of Brady in every statistical category. As an indication of Mahomes’ remarkable achievements thus far, a collector recently paid $861,000 for his rookie card, making it the most expensive football card ever sold. 

Consuming 10,821 calories during the game 

It is also worth noting that the halftime show was as “family-friendly” as the headliner, The Weeknd, promised it would be. As my wife noted when we were discussing this fact, we can make a difference when we take a stand, as many of us did after last year’s highly offensive show. 

Because it was played during a pandemic, the game was unlike any we have seen. But the ads gave us a respite from the bad news, with a two-dimensional Matthew McConaughey and the reunion of Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World, among other humorous bits. 

One was especially noteworthy: billionaire Jared Isaacman hopes his first-quarter ad will raise more than $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (Isaacman has personally pledged $100 million to the hospital). 

In less healthy news, football fans consumed an average of 10,821 calories during the Super Bowl last year (more than four and a half times the recommended daily calorie intake). There is no word this morning as to whether we set a new record yesterday. 

“With you is the fountain of life” 

The Super Bowl was a welcome diversion during one of the most difficult periods in American history. Nature reports that, as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, “the devastation of the pandemic—millions of deaths, economic strife, and unprecedented curbs on social interaction—has already had a marked effect on people’s mental health.” 

For example, more than 42 percent of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, a nearly fourfold increase from 11 percent the previous year. 

The good news is that when we focus on the eternal in the midst of the temporal, we find hope in the former to face our gravest challenges in the latter. Such hope is a powerful witness to a watching and hurting world. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted God more than King Nebuchadnezzar, and their faith was vindicated when they were miraculously spared in the “burning fiery furnace” and their deliverance led the king to praise the eternal King (Daniel 3:19–30). Paul could sing hymns in prison at midnight because he knew that the worst that could happen to him would lead to the best that could happen to him (Acts 16:25). When an earthquake freed his body, the gospel he proclaimed freed the jailer’s soul (vv. 30–34). 

David testified to God, “With you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). When we trust in that life and stay in that light, others are drawn to the One we serve. Then our challenges become platforms for our faith and glorify our Lord. 

“A walking billboard for Christ” 

This hope was on clear display in recent days. While several players on the Bucs and the Chiefs are committed believers, the faith of two players who did not compete in the Super Bowl was on public display the day before. 

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year, the highest individual honor in professional football. Wilson, a committed Christian, closed his acceptance speech by paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 13:7: “Remember this one thing: love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love changes things. Thank you.” 

At the Super Bowl Breakfast Saturday morning, New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis received the Bart Starr Award, the only award other than the Pro Bowl voted on by all the players. It is given annually to the player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the football field, and in the community. 

His wife explained their shared purpose: “Our primary mission has always been to be a walking billboard for Christ, so that others may be able to see and encounter him through us and our experiences.” 

Will you be a “walking billboard for Christ” today?