It Really is HOW You Play the Game….Posted: January 20, 2014
Let me begin with this: I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. So, for many, I have absolutely no cred when it comes to talking about sports of any kind. That’s okay, I don’t mind talking about it anyway 🙂 In fact, it’s not so much the sports aspect that caught my eye this weekend…it’s more the human reaction to it. Look, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can pretty much get the gist of it by reading a chapter. Satire, mystery, fiction, inspiration…you get the point. And if the old adage also holds true—“you only get one chance to make a first impression”…then we all might want to check ourselves before, well…you know.
So, here goes nothing. Like most people, I’m a sports fan. My favorite team in this great, big, wonderful world is the Kansas Jayhawks (for a myriad of reasons, but we’ll save that for later date.) But I also enjoy many different types of sports and follow several other teams as well. In my community, circle of friends and in my family for that matter there’s a wide variety of sports fans. Some of us live for football, hockey, and tennis. Others can’t get enough NBA, golf and volleyball. Personally, I’m a college basketball and baseball fan and thanks to my kiddos, I have a great appreciation for soccer. Different strokes for different folks. Amen, right? Still, one of the things that always strikes me about some fans is their (my) deep, die-hard passion for our sport of choice. We not only follow our designated tribe, but we support it with our time, energy and often, our money. No judgement here…I’m right with you.
Where things get tricky, though, is when we start to dis each other and personally belittle our perceived opponents. I can hear the groans and comments already…“this is why girls shouldn’t watch sports, you’re ruining the industry, this is how the game is played, if you don’t like it–don’t watch it.” I hear you and I understand. But it still begs the question, do we really accomplish anything when we put down our foes? What does it prove? Especially, if we’re on the winning end. I’m asking…. It seems that anytime you give your heart over to something…there’s going to be passion and intensity. Just like any relationship there will be huge highs and deep lows in fanhood. And since our teams foster a family like comradery…things can get personal fast. And not only do they get personal, but they can also get ugly.
This morning everyone is talking about the NFC Championship game and some of the post game antics. It was a hard-fought game. Can we agree on that? Depending upon who you were rooting for (and for the sake of disclosure I will tell you that my team lost), you were either right there with this (now notorious) cornerback, Richard Sherman, or you’ve reactively thrown your support behind a man who many describe as THE All-American quarterback, Peyton Manning. It doesn’t take but a second to scroll through any number of social media outlets to see the reactions and commentary. It’s been less than 24 hours since the hoopla aired, and arguments have been made on both sides. Some have tried to rationalize and excuse the behavior by calling on player intensity and testosterone. Others have written him off as classless and a thug. We’re all entitled to our opinion, it’s how we choose to express it that matters. In fact, I’ve been sort of surprised to see which side fans, sports gurus and radio personalities have signed on to. It’s also been equally interesting to see where my own circle of friends stand on these events.
Personally, my heart hurts for Richard Sherman. I saw his post game interview live like many other football fans. His moment on national television, the replay of his butt slap, choking gestures and trash talk against Michael Crabtree were truly baffling to me. Here was a man who had just demonstrated that he’s at the top of his game. He played a key role in his team moving on to the Super Bowl. I think the whole world expected him to be excited and amped up (and does it really matter who started it?) but using his airtime to disrespect an opponent…well it doesn’t add up, especially now that countless reports have come out about Sherman’s educational accolades, his communications degree from Stanford and blog writing/interviewing abilities. In a world where image is everything and first impressions are lasting impressions, Richard Sherman just cast himself as a football villain and in the hearts of many that role will last a lifetime. Football players often live and die in the moment. Whether it’s a consequence of personality or just the nature of the athletes who play the game, he has just categorized himself in a less than ideal light and he may spend his career (and life) trying to undo the damage of a few seconds on national television.
Unfortunately, fanhood means that we’ll never know the hearts and minds of those sports figures we idolize, but let this be a lesson to all of us. The way you play the game…your game, my game…will be noted. The world keeps records, it profiles and categorizes, and is not always gracious in forgiving our wrongdoings. How much more important does it become for each of us to live our lives more thoughtfully. Our words and actions are and will be judged. That’s a fact. If you don’t care, more power to you. Still most of us, if we truly examine our hearts, want to know that we have lived life well. As a sports fan, as part of a sports family and as a human being I want to live a life without regret. We all have our moments…where we wish we had done things, said things, differently. We can make amends and there are roads to reconciliation and redemption. Thank God for that. But wouldn’t it be better if we could just be better people? If what spills out in our words and actions really reflect our heart wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t look and sound like self-centered, entitled, thoughtless, rude men and women?
I don’t mind telling you that I won’t be rooting for the Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday. In the same breath I can tell you that I also won’t be cheering on the Broncos either (I’m a Chiefs fan, and therefore diametrically opposed, you understand.) Chances are, however, that as sports fans we’ll be checking in on the game, rating the commercials, and eating more than we should. I’m going to keep Michael Sherman in my prayers and hope that he and all the other athletes on the field play their hearts out, take in and savor their moment in the national spotlight and finally, make good choices…because the whole world is watching (and I’m trying to raise sports fans.)
You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. –Albert Einstein