San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will lead his team in the Super Bowl, capping a memorable 2012 NFL season.
As Super Bowl XLVII crowns another champion, this season will be wrapped up in a series of statistics. From passing yards to rushing yards to wins and losses, it’s easy to get lost in a world of figures and records as every season reaches its conclusion.
But at the end of the day, sports mean more than numbers and a team’s win-loss record. They give us more than just entertainment. They give us pride. They give us memories. And this year, they’ve given us lessons off the field to carry over into our lives.
Adrian Peterson’s return
If there were ever a player this season to be defined by the numbers, it would be Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Rushing for 2,097 yards, he fell only eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. But, he still broke a few more records of his own along the way and helped lead the Vikings to a playoff appearance against the Green Bay Packers.
Yet more remarkable than these stats is the fact that just over a year ago, Peterson tweeted a photo of himself eating ice cream in a hospital bed, ringing in 2012 while recovering from a torn ACL. By the end of the year, he was headed into the postseason as a name every football fan knew. Even though AP eventually lost to the Packers, the true story to come out of this season is one of recovery and triumph. If Peterson can bounce back from this, the limits to what you can do are probably just as endless.
Jovan Belcher’s suicide
While Kansas City’s season was unfortunate in itself (the team finished with a 2-14 record), one of the truly terrible and heartbreaking stories to come out of this year’s NFL cycle was a murder-suicide by Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher. Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before taking his own life on Dec. 1, 2012, leaving behind the couple’s 3-month-old daughter.
In the post-game conference following the Chiefs 27-21 win against the Carolina Panthers the day after the tragedy, Kansas City quarterback Brady Quinn talked not about game performance, but life performance. He wondered if there was something more he could have done for his teammate and friend.
“… It seems like half the time we’re more preoccupied with our phones instead of the actual relationships in front of us. When you ask someone how they’re doing, do you really mean it?” Quinn said, raising a lot of questions that should be addressed.
For us, the fans and supporters of the NFL, we can ensure that this changes how we act and how we approach our friendships. You never know whose life you could save just by paying a little more attention.
Torrey Smith’s tragic loss
In his first Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens WR Torrey Smith is playing for a lot more than a ring and a trophy. For Smith, who lost his brother to a motorcycle accident early in the season and went on to catch six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens 31-30 win over the New England Patriots the next day, it’s about being strong in the wake of tragedy and playing for his family.
His performance, mental toughness and dedication to the game this season has proved that life moves on after loss.
Memories aren’t forgotten, and during this Super Bowl between two head coaches who are brothers, you can be sure Smith will be thinking of his own little brother and playing just a little harder.
It’s so easy in college to forget to call home, getting wrapped up in the excitement of each day, but take some time to talk to the ones at home who will always be there for you, because you never know when you might not be able to.
Jerry Brown dies in car accident
Jerry Brown, a practice squad member of the Dallas Cowboys, was killed Dec. 8, 2012, in an alcohol-related car crash. He was riding in the car of fellow teammate and friend Josh Brent, who is currently facing intoxication manslaughter charges.
This isn’t a story unique to the Cowboys.
Around the country, drunk driving continues to be a battle fought every day — taking loved ones too early and changing lives in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible to know how Brent feels right now, but what is possible is making sure his mistake isn’t repeated.
Never drink and drive, and do not get in the car with someone who has been drinking. These are the lessons you’ve learned time and time again, but usually it’s only when disaster strikes that you take it into account – let this be the lesson, and don’t wait until it’s too late to learn it.
Chuck Pagano’s fight with leukemia
The start of 2012 was great for Chuck Pagano. He had accepted what he called his “dream job” as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and was ready to start the season fresh, with number one draft pick Andrew Luck as quarterback and a lot of hope and anticipation in the city.
In September, all that changed. Diagnosed with leukemia, he missed most of the season to receive treatment and returned to work on Christmas Eve, his cancer in remission.
While the absence of a head coach could be crippling for a team looking to rebuild after a disastrous 2011 season, it in fact provided some of the inspiration needed to bring the Colts to an impressive 11-5 season and a wildcard playoff game.
Beyond their improved performance was the astounding level of support from both the community and the team. More than 15 members of the team personnel and players shaved their heads in honor of Pagano, including Luck and punter Pat McAfee. Two cheerleaders did as well, and together with Colts mascot, Blue, they raised over $22,000 for leukemia research.
It was a true testament to the power of support that sports can rally within communities.
This season has brought lessons far more powerful than what the scoreboards have read and as fans we should claim their lessons as our own — just like we do their wins and their losses.
On the field, champions are crowned. But it’s off the field where heroes are made.
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