This year’s Super Bowl was an exciting game to watch, but I was disappointed with the ending. The teams were tied at the score of 35 with about 90 seconds left in the game when Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw an incomplete pass towards the endzone in the direction of JuJu Smith-Schuster. It looked as if the Chiefs would kick a field goal to take the lead and then the Eagles would have 90 seconds to try to tie or perhaps even win the game. However, the officials threw a yellow flag for a penalty because they believed that Eagles cornerback James Bradberry had held Smith-Schuster, giving the Chiefs an automatic first down. Now the Chiefs could run down the clock, kick an easy go-ahead field goal, and wrap up the victory. I felt cheated out of some exciting endgame drama.
But what about the penalty? The Fox broadcaster Greg Olsen argued that the penalty call was questionable and should not have been made to decide the game. On social media, many sports analysts and commentators complained about the fact that the Super Bowl was decided on such a controversial call.
That is why I loved the comments from a number of Philadelphia Eagles players. James Bradberry, the Eagles player who was flagged for the penalty, told reporters, “It was a holding. I tugged his jersey. I was hoping they would let it slide.” Eagles center Jason Kelce said something even more profound. Regarding the call, he said, “They called it, and that’s the way this goes. I’ve said this before, I’m never going to be somebody who puts blame or anything on officials. That’s a hard job. They make a call. It is what it is. There were multiple other moments in that game to take care of business and I think that, you know, we were close. We could have won that game without the officials making… without that call being the determining factor.”
Jason Kelce did something that so many of us struggle to do. He took ownership for the loss. How many of us would do that? How many of us would take responsibility in a situation like this and not blame someone else? In his work entitled, “Lessons in Leadership,” Rabbi Sacks wrote, “The story of humanity has been, for the most part, a flight from responsibility. The culprits change. Only the sense of victimhood remains. It wasn’t us. It was the politicians. Or the media. Or the bankers. Or our genes. Or our parents. Or the system… When all else fails, blame God. And if you don’t believe in God, blame the people who do. To be human is to escape from responsibility.” To be human is to blame the referees in the Super Bowl game, especially if it may cost you your only chance at football immortality.
Rabbi Sacks continued, “That is what makes Judaism different. It is what made some people admire Jews and others hate them. For Judaism is God’s call to human responsibility. From this call you can’t hide, as Adam and Eve discovered when they tried, and you can’t escape, as Jonah learned in the belly of a fish.”
In his famous work, Kol Dodi Dofek, Rav Soloveitchik wote that we are people of both fate and destiny. We are people of “fate,” as we are objects to circumstances that we cannot control. However, we are also people of “destiny.” We cannot control our fate, but we can control our destiny, how we respond to our fate. Whether it’s a controversial penalty call at the end of the Super Bowl or some other misfortune, it is human nature to blame someone else for our predicament, but Jason Kelce shared with us the Torah’s response. Take responsibility for the situation. Don’t see ourselves as victims; rather, let’s look inward, take responsibility, and move forward.