Down 10-6 at halftime, preparing to kick off to the offensively dangerous Peyton Manning, the Saints head coach dialed up an onside kick—a play with a success rate of roughly 25 percent. If the play falls into the 75 percent failure category, the Colts have a very short field and likely take an 11-point lead. Maybe the game gets away from New Orleans at that point.
But it didn’t.
The onside kick worked. Momentum, which had already teetered towards the Saints in the second quarter, shifted for good following the onside kick. The Saints scored, took the lead and, a couple hours later, were crowned Super Bowl Champions.
The NFL is a copycat league and not regarded as a bastion of creativity when it comes to play calling. That’s why Payton’s call is so impressive and should stand as a teachable moment. With so much money on the line and “job security” being an oxymoron for coaches, it’s rare that a team will go out on a limb during a regular season game, let alone in the middle of the biggest single-day sporting event in the world. But Payton did. I’d be applauding him even if the Colts recovered the ball under that scrum on the 40-yard line.
So what did Sean Payton and the Saints’ onside kick teach us, and our kids?
Namely, the play call shows us that life is short. Defining moments to soar are fleeting and few and far between, and we should attack life with a ferocious intensity and wild imagination. With routines, jobs, commitments, and all the other boring hassles of everyday life, this might seem outlandish. But it’s not.
Maybe your next grocery shopping trip doesn’t need an influx of creativity (although it probably can’t hurt to put something new in the cart this week—may I recommend fresh asparagus, then tossed in olive oil and grilled), but how about getting in the car with your family and just driving somewhere new next weekend? No plans, no reservations. Just go out and see something brand new together (while keeping the DS systems at home and in-car TV screens off).
Success in life is infinitely harder to measure than on a football field. The scoreboard will tell you if a team has won, but it’ll take years before you can judge your success as a parent. Still, I believe taking chances, as Sean Payton did to start the second half of the Super Bowl, is something that can show your kids that life is unpredictable despite our best efforts to give it structure. And the most rewarding experiences are often those which seem scary as hell at first.
If you want to try this out, start small. Go to a locally owned restaurant instead of Applebee’s. Go see a movie you’ve never heard of, or skip the movie altogether and go see a play. Bigger? Instead of Disney world, go to San Diego. See the zoo and wild animal park, drive east into the mountains, hang out near the airport, and watch the planes fly over your heads as they land. Dip your toes into the cold Pacific Ocean. Imagine you can see Hawaii, then watch the sunset from Coronado.
Life, even a long healthy one, goes by lightning-quick. We’ve only got so many breaths of fresh air to enjoy.
The next time there is a choice to make, try your own version of an onside kick and see what happens. You and your kids may also end up pumping your fists in the air and smiling under a shower of confetti.