Football, Rejection, and Failure

July 10, 2021

"Rejection and failure are facts of our existence."

Roy Riegels
Pasadena Museum of History | News | Roy Riegels running toward the wrong end zone (1929)

In 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. During the game a California player named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble and started for the goal, but in the wrong direction. He was tackled by his own teammate before he could score for Georgia.

In the following plays Georgia blocked a punt from California and scored a “safety,” 2 points.

At halftime the California team dreaded the reaction they were sure to receive from their coach, but none more so than Roy Riegels. Even so for most of the break the coach just sat in silence, looking at his dejected team. Finally he announced that the players who started the first half, would also start the second.

As the team filed out onto the field Roy Riegels remained seated in a corner, his head in his hands. The coach went over to him. “Roy, didn't you hear me? You're starting the second half.”

But Roy answered, “I can't do it coach, I've ruined you, the university, and myself. I can't face that crowd.”

The coach put his hand on the player's shoulder. “Roy, get up and go on back, the game isn't over.”

And Roy went back. It would be wonderful if we could say that California went on to win that game, they didn't. In fact they lost by 2 points. But the Georgia Tech players said that they had never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels did in that second half.

Rejection and failure are facts of our existence.

As Christians we are sent into the world to preach the message of the Gospel, the message of Christ. We have each been given different gifts to accomplish this. We are taught to reflect Christ to such a degree that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us. A properly formed Christian will preach Christ in all his words and actions; he will always work in a way that reflects the message.

To a Christian who has discovered his true vocation there is no separation between himself, his work, and his mission.

When we encounter rejection it is natural to consider that we have failed in our mission to convey the Truth. It is our responsibility to develop our talents to the highest degree. Our gifts are merely a starting point. It is our obligation to learn and study and expand upon our gifts a hundred times over. We cannot let rejection settle into our hearts, for then we allow ourselves to be content with less than we are capable of. Rejection is simply a way to let us know we still have work to do.

Even so, after we have studied, and trained, and practiced, and developed our gifts to their fullness, we may still encounter rejection from people who reject the message and the messenger. And in that case God has told us what to do, shake the dust from our feet, and move on, the game isn't over.

Pax Vobiscum
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time


© Lawrence Klimecki

Purchase fine art prints by Deacon Lawrence here.

Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit 

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith

"The Good Shepherd" © Lawrence Klimecki


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