imagesLast year I questioned Russell Wilson’s comments after the Seahawk’s Super Bowl loss. At the time Russell said he would keep his head up and not worry too much. I wondered about the people who might not share his positive vibe. An entire region had responded in collective agony to an errant pass. Hundreds of thousands had slumped in disbelief as the clock ran out on Super Bowl XLIX. I worried that Russell’s words could sound trite to a legion of followers who’d given their hearts to fifty-three guys daring a re-Pete.

What a difference a year makes.

Yesterday Carolina’s quarterback, Cam Newton, cut his two-minute post-game “presser” short after hooded silence and sullen responses to reporters’ questions. I listened to him, frustrated that he didn’t sit tall and look each person in the eye. After a week in which we heard him talk about emulating football greats, past and present, I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t take the mic and speak about his team’s hard work and commitment, the dedication of his coaches, the efforts of an entire organization that got them into Super Bowl contention. And let’s be honest, I was ready to hear about the agony of defeat, knowing he’d had to share the field with another team’s thrill of victory.

It was not to be.

In response to Cam’s post-game appearance, a CBS commentator reminded us that Cam will learn. More important, he reminded us that until and unless we’ve been there, it’s hard to appreciate the emotional toll of a loss on the world stage.

No, I haven’t been there. I haven’t been the leader of a professional team. I haven’t carried the hopes of dreams of an entire community on my back. I haven’t had an off day when I’ve needed to be at the top of my game. No, I’ve just fallen apart in a latte line. I’ve slammed the car door and kicked the rear tire because one of our city’s finest had the audacity to suggest that I might want to slow down. Fortunately, I wasn’t on camera. Fortunately, I wasn’t in front of a gauntlet of quotable quote seekers. Fortunately, I wasn’t headline news by the time I got home.

Defeat is hard to understand. For each of us it’s different. So often we want to push someone through it: it was just a game…, but it’s not “just a game.” It’s disappointment. It’s frustration. It’s anger. The commentator was right: Cam will learn from his experience—both on the field and in the locker room afterwards. As will we all. For each of us, there will be times of great disappointment, times that defy explanation, times that leave us hooded and silent, times when we need to own up to mistakes and get back to business, times when we need to keep our head up and our resolve intact.

Times when we need God’s direction and re-direction!