Editor’s note: Chuck Norris’ weekly political column debuts each Monday in WND and is then syndicated by Creators News Service for publication elsewhere. His column in WND often runs hundreds of words longer than the subsequent release to other media.

Football. The mere word reflects pride, passion and the American way. It’s one of the best pastimes in our country, and its crescendo reaches its zenith with today’s Super Bowl.

There are few events better than sitting (and standing) with family and friends cheering on your favorite team in that ultimate competition. And it’s a pretty good excuse for munching the best of American grub as you do!

With the XXII Olympic Winter Games also set to begin in five days in Sochi, Russia, with some events held in the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana, I thought it high time again to celebrate human potential, achievement and the spirit of contest.

I’m obviously a big lover of sports and my favorites have to be football, UFC fighting and watching the Olympics, though you could easily talk me into watching any athletic event. What entices me most is not just watching competitors clash – as exhilarating as that can be – but marveling over how far human ability can be pushed to its peak of performance. Don’t you love seeing the background reels about how athletic champions fought to get to the top and acquired their optimum – even herculean – status?

What I also appreciate in the best of sports figures is hearing how they conduct their lives with grace and optimism, whether on or off the fields of rivalry. Those I admire most fight like Roman gladiators but never forget in the end: it’s just a game or competition. They almost unanimously believe that what really counts is how they live their lives and play the game.

Speaking of great warriors and gentlemen, consider just a select few players from both the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks – our 2014 Super Bowl XLVIII competitors. I recently watched some online videos in which they described what matters most and drives them inside to be the best they can be on and off the turf. For many of them, it is their spiritual faith. Check out this video interview with several Seattle Seahawk players or these articles highlighting the interview of the Denver Broncos’ kicker Jason Elam and the new book by their quarterback Peyton Manning.

For example, in Peyton’s book – simply titled “Manning” and co-authored with his father, Archie – he describes his top four priorities and the meaning they bring to his life and his ability as one of the top NFL quarterbacks ever:

For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. … As important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old …

Some players get more vocal about it … and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism … .

My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago … .

I’ve been blessed – having so little go wrong in my life and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don’t talk about it or brag about it because that’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anybody else in God’s sight.

But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don’t do too many things that displease Him … . I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way.

Despite your creed or confession, you have to commend all these champions on both teams mentioned above for playing the game of life as it should be – with faith, fullness and joy.

Every team has its stars, but every member deserves our admiration for what they’ve achieved and contribute, including the coaching and support staffs. They all paid the price to get where they are. Win or lose, play or support from the sidelines, every member sacrifices in mind, body and soul to compete in the games and bring them and us to the thrill of victory.

As John Madden once described football, “You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack and one guy not getting in the end zone.”

Or as Frank Gifford once said, “Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors.”

As a six-time undefeated world karate champion, I get the thrill of victory. But, I never got the agony of defeat and here’s why. Although I did lose several times in my climb up the competitive ladder, let me share with you my philosophy on winning and losing along the way. Through years of competition, I found that the only time I ever really lost was when I did not learn from that experience. I would say to myself that I may have lost this time, but I will never lose the same way twice. It helped me not to get discouraged or upset. Or as the great Vince Lombardi explained, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” And if you think your hurdles are too hard or high, than find hope and be inspired by the video story of 14-year old Isaac Lufkin, “Armless Kicker’s NFL Dream.”

(To tap into more power for living, I recommend checking out three-time Super Bowl winning Redskin coach Joe Gibb’s website, “Game Plan for Life.”)

So as you watch the Super Bowl or even the upcoming winter Olympics, remember to celebrate not only those who compete and the winning spirit, but also your own innate human potential God has endowed in all of us: to face our fears and hardships and push ourselves beyond the scope of what we believe to be humanly possible.

Lastly, I should mention that you might want to make sure that you don’t miss the pre-Super Bowl opening moments. Let’s just say in the cast of characters, you might spot a Texas Ranger.

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