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Resilience After Defeat Is Critical for Best NFL Pros

As fans settle in to watch their favorite NFL teams vie to reach the Super Bowl, there are lessons to be learned in victory and in defeat.

As a speaker and author on optimism, one such lesson on resilience can be grasped from the post-game reactions to Billy Cundiff’s field goal attempt that went wide left in the final seconds of their playoff game with the New England Patriots. Missing what most considered an “easy” chip shot, the kicker’s miss essentially ended the Baltimore Raven comeback and any hope of their making it to the Super Bowl.

The Ravens (13-5) and their fans looked on in stunned horror, but after the game, Cundiff had no excuse, “It’s a kick I’ve kicked probably a thousand times in my career. I went out there and didn’t convert. That’s the way things go.” He continued, “It’s one of those situations that will strengthen me in the end. Throughout my career, I’ve had challenging situations and I’m still standing here today. It’s something that is going to be tough for a while, but I’ve got two kids and there are some lessons I need to teach them.”

There is a reason the Baltimore Ravens are consistently in the hunt for the NFL championship. It’s shown in a kicker’s maturity and in the response of his coach and team members.

“I just told him that it’s going to be OK,” added Coach John Harbaugh, who in each of his four seasons as Ravens coach has led them to the playoffs, but never to the Super Bowl. “You know, we’ll move on. He is a great kicker. You know, and everyone has a tough moment. All of us do, so Billy will be fine.”

The kicker indicated one of the toughest parts about the loss was letting down defensive leader Ray Lewis. But Lewis, considered to be one of the toughest players in the entire NFL, gave Cundiff his emotionally charged support: “One play didn’t win or lose the game. There is no one man who has ever lost a game. There is no ‘it’s Billy’s fault’ here or ‘Billy missed the kick.’ It happens. Move on, move on, because life doesn’t stop.”

That is a lesson from one tough linebacker that shows why he is an all pro and is so optimistic before every game. Life is lived out the front window, not the rearview mirror. There have been bad plays in the past, and there will be more in the future, but every time you play the game, in every play, you give your best to put yourself and your team in a position to win.

As a fan, I wanted New England to win, but I didn’t want to let pass the opportunity to honor the opposing coaches and players who showed the character and resilience that marks true winners in the great game of life. May we learn to do the same when we face our own setbacks and disappointing losses. When you do, you will be claiming your own optimism advantage.

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