The Indianapolis Colts delivered a statement on Sunday, and it was an amazing message because the team that has generally been beating up on weaker teams and losing to better ones finally delivered a victory against the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills.
And it wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill win but a 41-15 blow so hard it literally knocked the Bills off their first-place perch.
But this column isn’t about that. This is about a different kind of statement.
This statement is meant to touch NFL fans and people who don’t typically watch professional football at all. It’s a statement that was delivered after a game but has lasted eons and will be true forever.
It’s a statement that came, fittingly, on a Sunday from a man standing at a lectern that he turned into a pulpit.
“I don’t do this often,” Colts coach Frank Reich said to open his post-game press conference, “but I just wanted to start out by saying something personal:
“Like I said, in four years I think I’ve only done this one other time. Some people know that our team has been using the metaphor of climbing Mount Everest to parallel our quest to make it to the top.
“It doesn’t take long to figure out that this metaphor doesn’t merely apply to football. Rather, it can be a picture of the many challenges that we all face. We all face mountains that we’re trying to climb.”
Reich, you must understand, was speaking in a room adjacent to the visiting team’s locker room in Orchard Park. It’s a dank, small room many coaches have lately used to explain how their teams crashed after a loss.
But this day, Reich turned it into something filled with life. An abundant life.
This statement was something Reich last reached for in January of 1993 when he was the Bills’ backup quarterback in the fateful Comeback Game — the one in which the Bills fell behind 35-3 to the Houston Oilers in a playoff game, but ultimately won 41-38 in overtime.
“So I just wanted to offer a word of encouragement, really, to anyone out there who’s in the midst of a struggle. In particular, I’m thinking of a few friends who I know are going through some stuff,” Reich said. “I want to give a personal account to where I found my strength for the journey.
“The reason I’m doing that here and now is because almost 30 years ago, after a really big game right down the hall, in a press conference, I shared the lyrics to a song that means a lot to me. It really spoke to where I get my strength from.
“The song’s ‘In Christ Alone’ and it’s written by Shawn Craig.”
During his 1993 press conference following that fateful comeback victory, Reich recited the lyrics to the song that inspired him and spoke to how he lives his life.
“I’m not going to recite the whole song like I did in the locker room back in 1993,” Reich said. “but I do just want to share a very small snippet of it. It might encourage someone who’s climbing their own mountain right now.
“The chorus says, ‘In Christ alone I place my trust and I find my glory in the power of the cross. In every victory, let it be said of me, that my source of strength and my source of hope is Christ alone.’
“There’s one small snippet in the second verse, which is my favorite. My favorite lyric says, ‘I seek no greater honor than just to know Him more.’ So even though it was almost 30 years ago when I read those words here in this stadium, this week I was reminded Hebrews 13:8 says, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.’ “
“It’s crazy, but we’re here some 30 years later not living in the past but rather attempting to press on to what is ahead. So my encouragement is to keep climbing and to find the strength and power that you need in Jesus Christ.”
What a powerful message. What great love.
I know there are some who will read this and feel, well, nothing. There are even some who will find a way to be offended somehow that an NFL coach would share his faith in Christ to begin a press conference following a stirring win.
Please, don’t be that person.
Sports lately has become a lot about athletes building their brand and using their platforms. Some coaches, such as Golden State’s Steve Kerr and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich even use their platforms to serve their political means.
This was not that.
This was a humble attempt at sharing the way, the truth and the life that has encouraged and strengthened Reich in times of trouble. It was a statement much more bold and beautiful than the one the Colts made on the field in Buffalo.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero