What was the greatest blooper, the biggest mistake in the history of football.? It was made by Minnesota Viking Jim Marshall. Although Marshall was one of the best defensive ends of the 1960s and 1970s, he will forever be best remembered for a mistake he made on October 25th, 1964. His Vikings were in San Francisco to play the 49ers. In the first half, San Francisco was deep in its own territory. Quarterback George Mira of the 49ers dropped the ball off over the middle to Billy Kilmer. Kilmer was swarmed over by Viking defenders, and the ball came loose. Marshall, had been hammered by a double-team block and been completely turned around. And all of a sudden the ball was loose in front of him. So he picked the ball up while on the run and took off down the field. Trouble was, he was headed in the wrong direction. Marshall galloped over 60 yards to the end zone, and he threw the ball in the stands to celebrate. The 49ers were awarded a safety, as Marshall’s teammates looked on in disbelief. Fortunately Jim Marshall atoned for his error by forcing a fumble that was returned by the Vikings for the winning touchdown, but his wrong-way run was the only play that most people would remember from his career.
As we begin our study in Mark’s gospel, the point I am making is this: You don’t have to run the moral or spiritual equivalence of 62 yards in the wrong direction, you can turn around right now. The good news John the Baptist came to preach is that the message and power are all about Jesus the Messiah, all about the Holy Spirit’s power to turn our lives around. And God knows we are sinners who are always running in the wrong direction. So by all means, respond to John’s message, repent, turn around, run, don’t walk towards Jesus. But even if you do what Jim Marshall did and score a safety, and give the points and the ball to the other team. The good news is that even then there is forgiveness and grace and power.
Pastor Randy Bare