The Past Is Not Future
On New Year’s Day, 1929, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets played the University of California Golden Bears in the Rose Bowl. Both teams were power houses. In the game, one of the worst blunders to ever happen in a bowl game would occur. Roy Riegels, the starting center/nose tackle for Cal (in those days all players played both offense and defense) recovered a Georgia Tech fumble and began running the ball to the goal line. Unfortunately, he got turned around on the play and ran the wrong way and almost scored a touchdown for Georgia Tech. The Cal quarterback, Benny Lom, ran down and tackled Riegels just short of the end zone preserving the scoreless tie. But since they were in a hopeless situation on the goal line, Cal chose a quick-kick punt for the next play to try to surprise Tech. Unfortunately, the punt was blocked and while it was recovered by a Cal player, since it was in the end zone, Tech was awarded a two point safety. Shortly afterward, the first half ended with the score 2-0. Riegels was crestfallen and sat in a corner of the locker room berating himself for his very dumb play. In fact, all the Cal players were in a state of shock and their coach didn’t know what to tell them to snap them out of it. Finally Coach Price announced at the start of the second half, “Gentlemen, the same lineup will play the second half.”
As the players rose to go out on the field, Riegels stayed in his seat. Price went over to him and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? I said the same lineup will start the second half.” But Riegels said, “Coach, I can’t do it. I put the team in a hole and I made a fool of myself. I can’t go back out there.” To which Coach Price said, “Roy, it’s only the first half. Yes, you got turned around, and it’s embarrassing but we’re only two points down with half the game to go yet. Besides, they didn’t score those two points on your play. They scored them on my call of the fake punt. Get back out there and give it your best. We need you because you’re one of our best players.” So Roy went back out and played his heart out. Each team scored a touchdown in the second half, Cal’s on a play where Riegels executed a perfect block. And Tech failed to make the extra point on theirs so the final score was 8 to 7. But Roy realized that it was a team loss, not just because of him. He would have to good-naturedly put up with being nick named “Wrong Way Riegels” for his senior year but he was honored as an All-American player and helped Cal to a one loss season and another bowl game that year. He did not let one crazy play define him and he would, over the years, reach out to others who made mistakes in football games and help them see that one play does not define a person’s life.
As we enter into a new year, we must understand that the past does not define the future. This is especially true in terms of the Christian faith. When Christ comes into people’s lives, they become new creations in him. Lives can be changes and new directions given to people who were once lost in life. What will be important is what they do with the rest of their lives once Christ has become their Lord and Savior. What in 2019 do you need to leave behind so that Christ can use you for his glory in 2020?