Multiplication Center

MY NEXT BOOK – Year 9, Chapter 17…The 1st Half Gets You in the Game

February 4, 2014


On Football Championships and Life . . . by Bob Buford

In the 16-year history of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) the best game I’ve ever seen unreeled this year on Jan. 6 as Florida State played Auburn. I can see the collision still:  one team undefeated for the season, the other riding a string of somebody-pinch-me wins in the games’ final seconds.

The first big surprise was Florida’s mistake-riddled first half . . . and the second was the fear on the players’ faces-even the quarterback, Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner. The team picked to win the championship game spent its first half getting pummeled, and Winston was pulp.

But Florida State’s story is its second half.  Not that Auburn fell apart-just that Florida came back and put it together, which made for a spectacular game.

As for Winston, if you’re as good as the Heisman says you are, if you’re the best player in college, when it comes down to the final drive, when you get the ball and the last chance to score and win, no matter how bad the whole game has been, you find a way.  And he did it. “Winston struggled much of the night,” ran a wire report in the Dallas Morning News, “but was nearly perfect when the Seminoles needed it most, going six catches for seven passes for 77 yards on the winning drive.”

YouTube it. Florida State won with a minute thirty-seven to go.

click on the video to view


Thank Goodness My Teams Lost

I love holiday football.  I love that it’s full-tilt, real time, big stakes, win or go home. I love that my beautiful wife also considers football a high form of entertainment, and that from the comfort of the couch in our den, thanks to HD television, if we weren’t distracted by the plays, we could count the blades of grass.

This year the games blended for me into one flash of insight, but the epiphany came only because the Cowboys finished their first half 23 points ahead of Green Bay and instead of running the clock out toward the end of the game, their $100 million quarterback threw two interceptions, dousing the flame on the Cowboy season. And because my other team, The University of Texas, also lost. Consequently, for the remaining championship games, I could relax with the emotional detachment of a Troy Aikman or Joe Buck in a high and distant booth.

And what I saw, again and again, was that the second half was the game.  From Johnny Football pulling it out for A&M in the last few seconds to San Francisco’s victory over Green Bay with a field goal in the final half-minute, with a dozen more examples between, in almost every match the obvious winner failed to win and victory lay on the far side of halftime.

click on the video to view


Think about it. Central Florida played Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, and Florida-the underdog-won its first BCS by beating a team ranked six in the nation. The 52-42 final score stayed close to the end. The majority of the bowl games, and certainly the BCS bowls, the biggest and most prestigious, all were close. All came down to the second half, and most of the teams had to dig deep to win.

For several days I kept a list of the 35 bowl results on my desk just to re-check my theory, and the evidence stands up and walks around: the first half gets you in the game but the second half wins it. Or not.

And that puts considerable weight on what happens during halftime.

What Happens at Halftime?

Halftime is when the best coaches and team leaders assess and adjust.  If you’re behind, you look at what’s gone wrong and rework your game plan. If you failed to prepare and got thwacked, you change up.

That’s the tactical approach. There’s also the emotional inventory because it may be that the other team is doing nothing to you-you’re doing it to yourself. You may adjust there too.

Coming out of halftime, it comes down to how badly you want something and what you’re willing to do, mentally and physically.  Sacrifice and selflessness factor in because winners always come in a group package. Johnny Footballs or Jameis Winstons are nice to have but it’s teams that win, not stars. Besides that, every team has a surrounding cast of coaches, leaders, assistants and counselors.

It Can Go Either Way 

In my life, in my field, I’ve had 50-yard line seats on the lives of men and women who have come out of halftime to finish well. Mike Ulman springs to mind, the man who was temporarily sidelined and now is trying to save Penney’s. Or Rich Stearn, who reworked his game from the corporate world, to world relief. I also see the Elliott Spitzers or Ken Lays who built a lead and then somewhere dropped their guard. It can go either way.

The legendary seminary professor Howard Hendricks once told me of a study of the lives of men and women in the bible.  Where there was sufficient data to follow, he said, the study concluded that two-thirds of the biblical figures finished badly-which tells you who we humans are, and why we can’t do it alone.

So the second half is no promise, no guarantee. It’s just a chance to redeem ourselves or to ruin all we’ve gained so far.

There’s so much more to say but as with football games, Museletter’s have an end. I’ll close with a Richard Rohr quote from his book “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,” about every life’s second half, because it says something about why I do what I do.

“In my opinion, the first half of life is no more than finding the starting gate. It is merely the warm-up act. . . .  We are summoned to [the second half], not commanded to go, perhaps because each of us has to go on this path freely, with all the messy and raw material of our own unique lives.  But we don’t have to do it, nor do we have to do it alone.”

Halftime Institute, founded 16 years ago, begins with a two-day meeting of a handful of high capacity people like you. They come together to assess their first halves and to more deliberately plan their second. The two days kick in a year of personal coaching and group accountability, potentially one of the richest years of your life.  If you’d like to tap the pause key to better know your gifts and God’s call for your life, call Tim Dukes at Halftime.

The first half gets you in the game; the second half is for your best plays.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.  You can email me personally, or converse with the entire community at

Recent Articles