Since the Eagles won, we can say that one of the key plays of the game came in the fourth quarter, after the Patriots had finally taken the lead. The Eagles were driving downfield, but their drive stalled and they found themselves facing a fourth down. They went for it, and made it, going on to score. On the equivalent drive last year, my Falcons failed at that point, and never recovered. In my view, that fourth-down conversion was one of the key plays of the entire game.
But if the Patriots had won, if, for example, Gronkowski had caught that last pass and the Patriots had won in overtime, no one would care particularly about the Eagles’ successful conversion on fourth down in the fourth quarter. In that case, a different play emerges as key. Towards the end of the first half, with the Patriots deep in their own territory, they failed to make a first down. But one of the Eagles defenders was penalized on the play for holding, which meant that the Patriots got a first down anyway. They went on to score. Since the Patriots lost, the holding play was no big deal. But if the Patriots had won, I would be looking at that drive as a key shift in the momentum of the game.
What interest me in this is that we cannot know until the end of the game which plays mattered most. Every play matters as it happens. Some seem likely to shape the whole game. But we cannot possibly know which plays actually determine the outcome without knowing the outcome.
In that, last night’s Super Bowl is like life. I constantly make apparently minor decisions. Some small number of them become important to me in an ongoing way, and, of course, most don’t. But every decision matters as I make it because I can’t possibly know at the time which ones will turn out to have been key to where I end up. It could be the fourth down conversion. Or maybe the holding penalty. Only time will tell.
Christians can add one more twist. I can’t know ahead of time which decisions will matter most in my life because I don’t know exactly how it will end. On the other hand, as a person of faith, I believe that I do know at least something about the end. Life ends in God. And knowing that can give me some guidance as I make choices now.