Familiar Fingerprints

By Nathan C. Vance

The date was January 3, 1993. I was a seven, soon-to-be eight-year-old Buffalo Bills fan living in the small town of Olean, New York. It was a familiar feeling. The Buffalo Bills were in the playoffs and the Super Bowl was at stake. Some of you will remember their infamous run of four consecutive Super Bowl losses. I remember Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, James Lofton, Pete Metzelaars, Steve Tasker, Daryl Talley, Bruce Smith, and Cornelius “Biscuit” Bennett. There were others but these were my favorites. I remember the K-gun poster in my older brother’s bedroom. And I remember this game against Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers vividly.

We had just left Sunday morning Church and were headed to my father’s favorite restaurant, Perkins. I was in shock. “Dad, are we really missing this game?” I asked.

My dad can be a bit of a pushover, so when the non-football crowd invited us to dinner, he smiled and graciously accepted the invitation in spite of the protests of my brother and I. We lived in a Bills town and we were all about this team. This really wasn’t the day to miss a game. And I remember the great Jim Kelly being hurt and my dad saying “Boys, without Kelly, the Bills don’t really have much of a chance. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve seen this type of thing so many times.”

As we were leaving Perkins, Dad turned on the radio and the Bills were getting slaughtered. He quickly shut it off and whispered “Good for Warren Moon.” Then he glanced back at us and said “See, guys, I knew that the Bills wouldn’t be the same without Kelly. He’s one of the very best to ever do it. It’s hard to win without a guy like that.”

My brother, ever the smart aleck, said “I’m just glad we don’t have to watch them get destroyed by the Cowboys.”

Dad turned off the radio and we went on a rare family drive. I think he wanted to make sure that we didn’t make it home to see the game. Deep down, though a Browns-lifer, my dad had allowed the Bills to get into his DNA. It made him happy that they were good. It hurt him to see them lose.

We got home in time to see Frank Reich’s post game speech and his famous quoting of a Christian song, “In Christ alone will I glory though I could pride myself in battles won.” Holy cow! The Bills completed the greatest comeback in football history! They actually won! And they did it with Frank Reich!

I’ve never been an Eagles fan. In truth, I really disliked them under Andy Reid. I think they reminded me too much of my childhood Bills teams. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. But this year, their positivity on social media, their stance for social awareness, and their team baptisms in hotel swimming pools has really drawn me in. When I realized that Frank Reich was their offensive coordinator, I couldn’t help but smile. He’s the same guy all these years later. The light of Christ shines wherever he goes.

So I was devastated for them when Carson Wentz, a favorite of my father’s and a point of Brown’s draft pain for uour family, went down with a torn ACL. I just knew that his injury spelled the end for this team. Somehow, I had forgotten about THE Game from my childhood. That the right backup can help a team endure even when one of the very best goes down. It didn’t dawn on me until after they destroyed the Minnesota Vikings that Nick Foles was the new Frank Reich. This team was going to shine the same message that he had shined publicly so many years before. Foles, studying to be a pastor, told Tony Dungy that he felt like the Lord had led him back to the Eagles specifically for this moment.

The week leading up to the game, something inside of me began to shout. Nick Foles, the unlikely story of the NFL, is really going to be the guy to take down the greatest dynasty in modern sports. Nick Foles was just about to out-duel the GREAT Tom Brady. Nick Foles was just about to have his Frank Reich moment. And, to me, it’s only fitting that Frank Reich was going to share it with him.

So I wasn’t shocked last night when Foles played the game of his life. I wasn’t shocked when the Eagles proved to be a team of destiny. And I could only smile when I thought back to that frigid January day so long ago. All of this had Frank Reich’s fingerprints on it. I know from experience that those fingers seem to bless whatever they touch.

I’m hoping that his next act, sooner than later, will be as a head coach, hoisting his very own super bowl trophy, and I cannot wait to hear what he has to say. I’d be willing to bet that somewhere in that speech we’ll hear the words “In Christ Alone.” Good job, Eagles. Good job, Nick Foles. Good Job, Coach Reich. You really deserve it! Fly Eagle, Fly.

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