Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 KJV
Sports bring out the best in us. Team camaraderie, belongingness and enthusiasm. Just take a look at my neighborhood!
But sports also bring out the worst in us. Like most of America watching the NFC Championship game between San Francisco and Seattle, I was stunned by the Sherman interview. (Note: Before I write another word I want to say, I think it is wrong to judge a person’s character by something said in one emotional moment.) Although I share the enthusiasm of my neighbors and am hoping for a Seahawk Super Bowl win, I am going to step out on a limb to say something that won’t be popular in a city in WA State just a few hours from Seattle.
In my opinion, what Richard Sherman said was wrong. To me, it came off as prideful, arrogant, mean, hurtful, revengeful, belittling and very inconsiderate of the Seahawks team accomplishments. Whether Crabtree did or didn’t provoke it, where Sherman came from, what grades he received, where he went to college, how honest he was being or how entertaining he was does not change that. However, it should be noted that Sherman has since apologized.
More concerning to us than Sherman’s rant, should be it’s aftermath. Fans defending and condoning what he said while our impressionable children look on is frightening to me. What are we teaching future generations about what is right and wrong, mutual respect and human dignity? Most troubling are the fans who were outraged by what was said and took to twitter using derogatory racial slurs. (One twitter user, who makes it his business to publicly shame people whose tweets disagree with his opinions by publicly posting their tweets and twitter addresses was so “helpful” to gather them all up in one place–fueling the aftermath even more.) All this on the eve of a national holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
So many claim to support what Rev. King stood for. He was a champion of civil rights but he was working for so much more than freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality for all races. In Rev. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964, he said, “Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
What isn’t widely talked about, is that Rev. King wasn’t suggesting a humanistic foundation of love. His strategy to change our culture was founded in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. All those who worked with Rev. King in the Civil Rights Movement were required to abide by Dr. King’s “Ten Commandments” listed below. His hallmark was demonstrating peace by dealing with his opponents using common courtesy and restraining from the “violence of fist, tongue, or heart”.
1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is Love.
4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
This post is about more than Sherman’s interview. It’s about American sports in general. Is player and fan sportsman-like conduct a thing of the past? Before Sherman even spoke, there were reports surfacing that Seahawk fans had thrown food on the injured Novarro Bowman as he was being carted off the field and that Jeremy Lane was clotheslined by a 49er fan as he ran into the sideline. Posts on Facebook and Twitter are also proving that the hate and intolerance of American politics has spread to the sports arena. Sadly, one sports journalist even wrote. “Sherman’s brash honesty gave us a moment we can remember, and if it makes him a villain to some, so freaking what? We need good guys and bad guys in sports. We need rivalries like we used to have in the old days, when it seemed more rivals genuinely hated each other on and off the field.”
The 12th Man tradition began way back at Texas A&M in 1922 when a depleted Aggie roster pulled a fan named E. King Gill from the stands and suited him up to play. He never stepped on the field, but his gesture of willingness to help should the Aggies need it turned into a special tradition. As the 12th Man, may we be willing to do our part to make this sport a bit more civil–no pun intended. Perhaps Sherman serves as a reminder for us all as Super Bowl 48 approaches–play nice. LH
Questions for comments:
When does good fun competition cross the line to rabble-rousing?
What, if anything, can we do to take the negativity out of the sports arena?