Ever had that “uh-oh” moment, that sinking feeling? We all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes lose games, so to speak. In our minds and hearts we often know what the right thing to do is because God speaks to us through our minds and hearts; but sometimes, our stubbornness, our self-sufficiency and self-reliance get in the way and cause us to listen to a contrarian voice. It’s “my way or the highway”. How many times have I made things worse because “I did it my way” or because I did not heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit or my heart?
It wasn’t just any fumble, it was “The Fumble”. There are only certain words that can describe the jaw-dropping sinking feeling that I felt when the ball was fumbled: anger, shock, despair, and disappointment. In a football game that will go down in history as one of seismic proportion was the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants, 1978. I was watching the game. The Giants were leading 17-12. All they had to do was take one more snap and kneel with the ball, and the clock would run out. It would be a huge upset over the Philadelphia Eagles that would put the Giants in a possible playoff picture if they won.
With 30 seconds to go in the game, Joe Pisarcik called the snap.
“Brown right, near wing, 65 slant!”
Pisarcik took the snap and went to hand it off to fullback Larry Csonka.
So, as the credits rolled on the television broadcasting system and Giants fans streamed out of the stadium with a seemingly sure 17-12 win, the unthinkable happened.
What was Coach Joe Gibson thinking when he called that play? The playbooks would say to just kneel and run out the clock. Logic would say don’t flirt with disaster. Even a Football 101 Guide for Beginners would say to take the knee and run out the clock. But contrary to logical thinking and common sense, right reasoning did not win out.
Sadly to say, the Giants did not win the game and would not have a chance at earning a berth in the playoffs. The play called for fullback Larry Csonka to take a handoff from quarterback Joe Pisarcik and run it in for a touchdown, but the play was botched with Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards picking up the loose ball and running it in for an Eagles touchdown instead. If quarterback Joe Pisarcik had only taken a knee, the Giants would have won the game.
Instead of jubilant celebration, there was a mood of despair and a sickening feeling that prevailed over the Giants and their fans. Angry Giants fans demanded that someone be held responsible for this debacle. Needless to say, Coach Joe Gibson was fired the next day. The “I did it my way” reasoning would have severe and lasting impact. So great was the stigma attached to this one decision that Joe Gibson made, that he would never work at any level of football again.
The play will always be remembered by the Giants as “The Fumble”. To this day, Joe Pisarcik is still asked about it. Joe is quoted as saying 35-years later, by Mark Di Ionno, columnist for the New Jersey Star Ledger, “People come up to me and actually say, ‘Hey, do you remember that play…?’ I feel like saying, ‘No, I’m only reminded of it 89 times day.”
Could Joe have reversed Joe Gibson’s play call? Well, what people don’t know, is that a couple of weeks before, Joe Pisarcik did change one of Coach Gibson’s plays and was severely reprimanded for it. According to Mark Di Ionno, Coach Gibson screamed at Pisarcik, “Don’t ever change a play I send in, ever again! Pisarcik said. So when the (fumble) play came in, the guys in the huddle were like, ‘Joe, don’t do it. Just fall on the ball.’ I said, ‘No way, I’m not going to get yelled at again.’” Final score: 19-17, Eagles over Giants. Joe Pisarcik’s legacy would be sealed in stone forever.
All of us have fumbled at one time or another. I can personally relate to this. For me: All I needed to do was apologize, but instead, I had to argue and defend myself. All I needed to do was listen, but instead, I had to open my big fat mouth. All I needed to do was be patient, but instead I rushed into a situation before planning and as a result, the outcome was less than desirable or even disastrous; all because I had to do it myself without listening to or hearing from God.
One thing that we can learn from our “uh-ohs” is to do it God’s way the next time. And when we do it His way, we will always come out the winner, for if Christ lives within us and we are in tune with His Holy Spirit, we will be victorious.
Romans 8:5-17; Ephesians 3:16-19
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be sensitive to the promptings of your Holy Spirit in matters of my heart and in making daily decisions. Help me to do it “Your Way”.
Copyright 2014 by Bill Hutzel
Mark Di Ionno, “35 years later, ex-Giant Pisarcik takes The Miracle at the Meadowlands in stride”, December 23, 2013, http://blog.nj.com/njv_mark_diionno/2013/12/35_years_later_nfls_pisarcik_t.html
My Way or God’s Way post …