Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Newsletter: Fourth Down

I’ve had football on my brain. Maybe, it’s because our high school team is in the playoffs. Maybe, it’s just that autumn is the best time to play touch football in the backyard. Nonetheless, last week, I was fascinated when I heard about a book on football by a Berkley economics professor.

The book is entitled, “It’s the Fourth Down and What Does the Bellman Equation Say?” by David Romer. During a football game, every coach faces a decision at the fourth down. Should the players continue to move the ball down the field and hope for another first down, or should the team kick a field goal? Romer has collected historical data and has applied mathematical probabilities to that problem. According to his data, punting is often a bad call. Moreover, coaches regularly take the punt and avoid the risk.

Now, I’m no coach, but it’s clear that the particulars of a game or team make a difference. Coaches have to make tough choices on the field. However, it doesn’t surprise me that most coaches are like most people. We try to avoid taking risks. However, playing it safe often means that we rarely reach our potential.

I am reminded of the parable that Jesus told about the talents (Matthew 25). Remember the man who buried the one talent. He did the safe thing, and things didn’t end well for him. In our lives of faith, we are often called to take risks, to move outside our comfort zones. That might mean reading your Bible regularly, joining a prayer group, volunteering your time, loving the unlovable, or forgiving someone who has hurt you. None of these things are easy, but living to our full potential as the church is God’s calling. Punting is not always the right choice.

Wishing the our team all the best…

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