Two Quarterbacks, Fifty-one Dragons, and One Kind of Magic

One of my favorite short stories of all time is “The 51st Dragon” by Heywood Broun. If you are not familiar with the story, you may want to read it before reading the rest of today’s blog. It is at http://www.bartleby.com/237/33.html.


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Really, go read it now. I’ll wait.
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Sir Gawaine was able to slay 49 dragons with ease, empowered by the magic word given him by his teachers. When he forgot the magic word during his battle with dragon number 50, he survived and slayed the dragon, but only just. Then he was eaten by the 51st dragon. The 51st dragon was no mightier than the previous 50, and surely Sir Gawaine was no less skilled than he had been. Indeed, after 50 dragons he must have become quite skilled in dragon-slaying. But when he lost his magic word, he became dragon-fodder.

But this was just an allegorical short story. This kind of thing can’t happen in real life. Can it?

Last NFL football season (2010), the Indianapolis Colts finished with a record of 10 wins and 6 losses, best in their division and tied with several other teams for 5th best in the league. This year they lost their star quarterback Peyton Manning to a neck injury, and played the whole season without him. They finished this season with just 2 wins and 14 losses, tied for worst in the league. Now of course Petyon Manning is one of the best players of his generation, and his loss was sure to be felt. But from 10-6 to 2-14? Their offense fell from 1st in passing yards to 27th out of 32, and even their defense fell from 20th to 25th in yards allowed and 23rd to 28th in points allowed. Is it possible they lost more than Petyon Manning the player, but also lost “Petyon Manning” – their magic word?

Meanwhile the Denver Broncos ended 2010 with a record of just 4 wins and 12 losses. They started the season with just one win and 4 losses under quarterback Kyle Orton. Then, as you surely have heard, Tim Tebow became their starting quarterback. In his first start, after a terrible first three quarters, the team came back from 15 points behind in the last 6 minutes of the game to win in overtime 18-15. They won twice more in overtime during the regular season, earning 7 wins and 4 losses under Tim Tebow’s leadership, to end with 8 wins and 8 losses. In the playoffs, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (again in overtime!), before losing this week to the Patriots. Veteran Bronco defense players Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey were regularly seen standing one the sideline watching Tebow play, where traditionally defensive players sit and rest, or sit and review tactics, while the offense is on the field.

Is it possible Tim Tebow gave the Broncos not just his own abilities, but also their own magic word – “Tebow Time”?

If so, then what about their playoff loss to the Patriots? To me, that just shows that, self-confidence is magical, but not actually Magic, and “Tebow Time” was not enough to overcome a much superior team. As the headmaster himself said of Gawaine’s magic word: “It wasn’t magic in a literal sense, but it was much more wonderful than that. The word gave you confidence. It took away your fears”.

As Broun’s story is in the public domain, please feel free to use Sir Gawaine’s very own magic word for yourself – it was “Rumplesnitz”.

What dragon in your life needs to be slain today?

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One Response to Two Quarterbacks, Fifty-one Dragons, and One Kind of Magic

  1. Lynda Hoggan says:

    I’m not much for football, but I do like dragon parables. Now I have to go slay a dragon. Hey, to some people, writing is a dragon! 🙂

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