Dak Prescott is seriously trending.
He is the starting quarterback of the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys.
The injured man whose misfortune made the job available, Tony Romo, held a press conference recently to let everyone know that Dak deserved to start and continue to play, even when the incumbent starter returns from IR.
He was the favorite fantasy pick in the Cowboys vs. Redskins Thanksgiving Day game—as he has been almost every week since getting off to such a hot start—before leading them to another win and sharing the Thanksgiving Galloping Gobbler Award from Fox with Ezekiel Elliott.
And now he’s famous for picking up trash.
This 8-second clip went viral like it was a 3-minute montage of your neighbors’ kittens doing cute but worthless things in the living room. But unlike the cats next door, this shot comes loaded with cultural insights and assumptions.
What’s Right about Him Picking Up Trash
Why would a video like this go viral?
Because everything Prescott touches is gold right now, yes, but also because his willingness to follow his own missed garbage shot demonstrates our collective desire to see simple behaviors that used to be socially expected: pick up after yourself, do your part, don’t expect others to clean up your messes.
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In an age of elite athlete entitlement, the simple act of picking up after yourself and not expecting others to do it creates heroes. To “leave the place better than you found it” is old school wisdom at its best, and when someone demonstrates it publically, the act is striking against the backdrop of material neglect and consumption that has become the norm.
It was a lousy first shot, but the rebound became noteworthy simply because it’s so hard to find people who will clean up their own misses anymore.
Prescott couldn’t have sounded more like Forrest Gump when he said matter-of-factly, “Uh, more people need to pick up their trash if it was that big of a deal. I just simply missed the garbage can and didn’t think much of it. Get up and put my trash where it belongs.”
What’s Wrong about Him Picking Up Trash
There’s nothing wrong with him picking up trash. As he suggests, everyone should do it.
It’s everyone else’s desire to make a character projection out of it that seems problematic.
The driving question for media people after the video was “What does this act tell us about Dak Prescott?” His coach thinks it means he’s a neat freak, a teammate sees an environmentalist, and his owner is just proud of him and certain it reveals something from his background.
Consider: it only tells us what we want it to tell us, what the narrative of the moment leads us to project onto him.
The narrative of the moment says that Prescott is 10-1 and therefore an NFL “All-Around Great Guy.”
Similarly, the narrative during his years at Mississippi State had him down as the program’s most likeable, popular and productive player.
However, the narrative among draft scouts immediately following his final game downplayed his success at MSU and questioned his ability to play under center, in the pocket, his decision making and his accuracy. He was not predicted to be drafted before the fourth or fifth round and was certainly not expected to make a splash in the league anytime soon—if ever.
The narrative after the Senior Bowl and Draft Combine changed some scouts minds and suddenly he was a second round quarterback who needed to be taken seriously. Solid character, teachable, willing to grow.
But after a DUI arrest brought his previous five years of “likeability” into question, the narrative in March among draft experts and commentators had him potentially falling even further out of favor. With some already questioning his decision making and judgment, did the drinking incident perhaps reveal a deeper problem buried in the closet?
The narrative after the Cowboys drafted him late in the fourth round would of course be that he was always their guy, even though they had pursued at least four other quarterbacks and failed to land them before winding up with Prescott.
He’s behind a great offensive line, has a great rookie running back setting records next to him, and he picks up trash—he’s a GREAT quarterback and a GREAT guy!
What would the narrative be if he were picking up trash on the home sideline of the depleted Cleveland Browns this season?
Or what if he implodes in the playoffs this year, or when other teams adjust to him in his second year as usually happens? What if the picks suddenly surpass the touchdowns for a stretch?
What God Says about People Whether They Pick Up Trash or Not
Unlike humans, God seems to have a very different perspective on our personal histories and narratives. He views our entire life from beginning to end and takes all of it into account.
He’s not swayed by public opinion or the skewed perspective we or others have regarding our specific behaviors. Neither eight second nor eight year clips of our lives change His view of us.
Depending on your relationship to Him, this could be both comforting and/or concerning.
It’s concerning for those who are trying to run from God, who believe they can evade the truth of their lives by making sure only certain things become known about them. The briefest of Bible studies reveals a God who isn’t tricked by media bias or selective memory.
As Job’s friend Elihu reminds us (Job 34:21), “His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps.” King David, in spite of his own desire to run from God at times, finally confessed, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
Indeed, nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight, and everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13). “Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:24).
On the other side, it’s comforting because no singular action defines our entire life—apart from a decision to reject or embrace Jesus Christ. God’s love toward us is not discouraged by our poor choices, by the thousand ways we “miss the garbage can” with our lack of judgment or when we fail to even try to pick up the mess we leave behind.
Somehow, as Paul famously proclaimed, “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That narrative never changes toward us, despite the twists and turns of our own journey.
The legend of Dak Prescott may continue to grow, and the narrative surrounding what he does or doesn’t do will undoubtedly change as inevitably happens with all players. His career will be fun for fans to watch.
Fortunately, God deals with us differently than we will deal with Dak, and this will always be good news.