by Dale Reeves
Super Bowl LVI is in the books. According to NBC, the championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals drew huge ratings, with 101.1 million watching on TV and another 11.2 million streaming it online. The 112.3 million total viewers made it the most-watched TV show in five years. I think much of the country was excited to see a few quarterbacks playing in the big game who weren’t named Tom Brady. There were also a number of compelling backstories.
One of my favorite stories this year is about the rookie kicker for the Bengals, Evan McPherson. Coming out of the University of Florida, Evan was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the only kicker to be selected that year. No. 2 for the Bengals is only twenty-two years old, and comes from a very close-knit family that hails from the tiny 15,000-person town of Fort Payne, Alabama. Evan earned the nickname “Money Mac” this year because of his incredible accuracy. This season he made five game-winning field goals (with two of them in overtime playoff games). Just before marching onto the field to kick the winning 52-yard field goal in Nashville against the number one seed Tennessee Titans, Evan remarked to the Bengals’ backup quarterback, “Welp, looks like we’re going to the AFC championship game.”
The Reason for Money Mac’s Confidence
I was one of the 30,000 fans who attended the Opening Night Fan Rally at Paul Brown Stadium the Monday before the Super Bowl, and I witnessed the roar of the crowd when Evan McPherson was announced. He received as loud an ovation as quarterback Joe “Cool” Burrow. How many times have you seen the placekicker interviewed after a big game? It had become pretty commonplace for McPherson, which is why you couldn’t even buy his jersey in Cincinnati the past few weeks. They were all sold out.
In the postseason this year, McPherson hit 14 field goals out of 14 attempts, tying the record for the most field goals in an NFL postseason with legendary Colt kicker Adam Vinatieri. After the games in the postseason, McPherson expressed his faith by wearing a shirt with the words “God is Good” on it. He told the media:
“I lean on my faith a lot. I feel like I can’t compete my best without it. I know everything happens for a reason and I know God’s going to be there to help me throughout the ups and downs. As long as I keep him in my life close to me, I know there’s nothing I can’t do.”
Evan also closes just about all of his Instagram posts with a Bible verse. God truly has been good to him and he wants people to know about his faith in him.
Big Man with a Big Heart
Another story around the Super Bowl that I loved this year concerns former Bengal, Andrew Whitworth, who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, after eleven excellent seasons with the Bengals. At the age of forty, this four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Whitworth became the oldest tackle and oldest offensive lineman in NFL history to win a Super Bowl. More importantly, the big man with the big heart was named the 2021 NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his outstanding community service in the LA community. In his acceptance speech for that award, Whitworth challenged everyone with these words: “We have more work to do. . . . We need more action. . . . How are we giving back and paying it forward?”
Here is Andrew’s remarkable acceptance speech for that award: CLICK HERE
Just last season, Whitworth had to sit out the season for seven games due to a torn MCL and a damaged PCL. After that injury he thanked God for blessing him with fifteen years in the NFL and he said he was thankful for an “opportunity to lead in a different way.” Big Whit shared, “Who am I in adversity? I get a chance to be about all the things I stand for! Hope, faith, love, perseverance, toughness, selflessness, and a man of my words!”
Even though I wish our Bengals would have won the Super Bowl this year, I am happy for the success a man of integrity like Andrew Whitworth has enjoyed. Congrats to him and the way God has shown his favor to him. God is good!
A Message of Hope
The past month has provided a wonderful season of much-needed celebration for the city of Cincinnati. Regardless of the outcome of the Super Bowl, the Bengals’ run this year far exceeded our expectations and it provided a great shot in the arm for many folks who are just weary from all that has taken place in our country the past two years. God did not intend for us to live in quarantine and isolation. That is why at Christ’s Church the past few months we have been preaching “Community begins here.”
Why did I (and several teenage guys) stand on the roof of our church in sub-freezing temps this past Super Bowl Sunday to greet folks as they came to church with rousing chants of “Jesus” and “WHO-DEY”? Because we are a community of people in search of hope and a cause that unites us. We celebrate and support one another, and sometimes we even help people overcome their fear of heights. What a great time we had with Fox19 news reporter Drew Amman last Sunday, as he scaled the roof with me to share our message of hope.
And as for the Bengals, as my friend Sheri Gregor said, “First time in my life that I have said I can’t wait for football season . . . in February. I have plenty of gear now and I am ready! WHO DEY!!”