It’s the Super Bowl, 2018. Perhaps a billion humans are linked to it. In the stands, 80,000 humans are next to you in full expression. Real things happen, and some are unheard, despite the billions of ears and ears.

11 men stand alone on one side of a ball, while on the other side another 11 men gather. Those first 11 men have done this many times before. They have won this game many times before. They have been better than those in the other cluster many times before. This group is led by a person who is older than everyone else on the field. That person will go on to have perhaps his greatest game. And lose.

The other cluster of 11 form into a ring. Their leader is a replacement, because their own hero left the field on his shield a bunch of games before this final and most important one. The replacement did what he could. And it was good. They won many games together. They also lost friends and heroes that made those victories unexpected.

When this replacement leader comes to the gathering, it is his to lead. He has been charged with barking the names of positions, actions, and outcomes of the play and the game.

All eyes, everywhere, are on him.

All hope is on him. He saved this group from its losses. It was not easy. A year ago, he had thought he was done and had thought he would quit. He could go on to learn and profess God to children in a school. So no matter what, he knew what came after this game. He knew because he knows God. And God knows him. And his future is His.

The replacement comes into the group, bodies bend and squat to get heads aligned and close. The noise is limited by their closeness. In the sweaty, close connection, the sizes, the races, the positions mean less. Hell, they mean nothing.

The replacement gets lower into the ring of men, looks around the faces, and says:

“I love you.”

It meant more to them than any other act or expression that day.

Others have said, “LET’S GO!” Or “Win!” Or “Zebra right cross 158 go on set! BREAK!”

But he said, “I love you.”

He said that because he meant it. It meant something, the most, to the other men, because they knew he meant it. Nothing meant more than that. That is what the other men said after the game. All of them. After an unexpected victory over a great team, the other players had every reason to pound their chests and profess they loved themselves, the team, their moms. But the players in that first huddle all said those words, said by the replacement, meant more — more — in fact, most. This man was with them and said first, and most clearly:

“I love you.”

He said that, because he knew that, because he knows God. Deeply. For his life. That love was as real as a block, a tackle, a broken bone. It was more transformative.

Not because those men won, or the others lost.

“I love you” transformed those men, because that love transforms every human, everywhere, every time. There was no condition or transaction, because there was love. Because, in those words, there is a glimpse that God loves you, loves you no matter whoever says it to you. God loves those through you whenever you say it to them.

“I love you.”

Nothing means as much.