I’m going to try and write this without bursting into a tirade about how much I loathe the New England Patriots, their arrogant organization, their head coach’s unscrupulous regard for winning, their QB’s smug aloofness and so forth.

That’s the sports fan in me talking.

That’s the bitter and jaded JETS fan in me talking.

I will resist talking about that.

Instead I’ll focus on the game itself last night, which was phenomenal. The Atlanta Falcons, playing in only their second Super Bowl, held a commanding lead over the Patriots, going into the fourth quarter. Fox put up a graphic on the screen at the end of the 3rd quarter stating that in the history of NFL playoff games, the record of teams holding a lead of 19 points or more in the fourth quarter was 93-0.

The Falcons lead by exactly 19 points (28-9) at the start of the 4th.

But the Patriots (playing in their ninth Superbowl) were calm and cool. They scored, held the Falcons, scored again, held the Falcons, and scored again, which—along with a couple too-easily achieved two-point conversions—sent the game into overtime. The Pats’ then won the coin toss, got the ball and marched down the field and scored the sudden death touchdown, winning the game.

After Fox put up their “93-0” graphic, the Falcons never scored again, while the Patriots put up 25 straight points.

So…blame Fox?

As amazing as the finish was, it was perfectly in keeping with the recent history of championship games. Never forget that the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavilers, giving the Cavs the title. Villanova won the NCAA Basketball tourney over powerhouse North Carolina thanks to a three-pointer as time expired. And of course, the Cubs won the World Series.

What a time to be alive.

The old adage, coined by baseball icon Yogi Berra, is that “it aint over till it’s over.” That was proven last night and throughout the last year. It’s also a good reminder for life. If we feel overconfident, take our eye off the ultimate goal and start to relax as we near the end…the “end” might just slip through our fingers.

Paul uses a sports analogy to make that very point…

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

The runners of the Olympic games all competed for the same prize, but only one gets the crown: the champion. The champion is the champion because he trains, tempering his body and focusing his attention on winning the race. Paul says he runs the same way, in the race of life. He doesn’t pull punches or train without confidence (but not overconfidence). He runs with everything he’s got so that he does not lose the race to the Devil that is bearing down on him.

Paul eventually reached the end of his race, and when he did he was confident that he was leaving this world to receive his crown (2 Timothy 4:7-8). He kept his eye on the prize and won.

Where’s your eye? Is it on the prize? remember you haven’t attained it yet; it ain’t over till it’s over.

And the Devil is hot on your tail.