As a Seattle sports team fan, I'm used to inspiring emotion in fans of other teams...pity. Last night, after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos for the football championship, my Facebook news feed exploded. It wasn't all nice. Some of it was downright vitriolic. And I was stunned. I'd never experienced the "down side" of winning.
As the accusations piled up, I leaned a few things about real life.
1) Winning inspires excuses. If someone gets a job I wanted, he must have bribed the boss somehow. If she gets the writing contract and I don't, the publishers are idiots and I don't want to work with them anyway. If he is wealthy, it must be because he's doing something illegal or, at the very least, immoral. I know very well how much time and effort I have put into getting that job or contract. I've heard, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it," or "Nothing is outside of your grasp if you are willing to work hard enough to get it," for so long I've started to believe it. But you can't tell me the Denver Broncos didn't dream about winning or work hard enough. And you can't blame the refs for making a bad call every time it goes against you. Sometimes the other person wins because he is just plain better.
2) Losing is inevitable; learning to deal with it is vital. My husband is an Army chaplain. One of his main responsibilities is helping soldiers cope with losing. Losing teaches us to assess our personal strengths and weakness in order to shore up one and take advantage of the other, to come back again and again with our best effort knowing that losing is an option, to devise a new strategy when our first plan doesn't work out. Without those skills, a soldier--or anyone--who suffers a catastrophic setback will give up. It's human nature to throw in the towel when we see that we are going to lose. Without the ability to devise a new strategy, a soldier who has lost a leg will never see himself as anything but worthless. No wonder our suicide rates are epidemic. But what about the girl who can't achieve that model-thin physique? Or the boy who grows too tall to fit inside a fighter jet cockpit? Soldiers aren't the only ones turning to suicide as an answer when something becomes unattainable. I can dream and work hard all I want, but at 5' 9" and 50 years old, I'm never going to make the Olympic gymnastics team. Is my life over? It is if I don't figure out a way to deal with my loss, come up with a new strategy, and give it my all knowing I could lose on that one, too.
3) One person becomes the spokesperson for the whole team--and it's not always the guy you want. Peyton Manning is a class act. He is as gracious in victory as he is in defeat. There is a reason he gets paraded out for press conferences all the time. Russell Wilson is another class act, equally as gracious in both victory and defeat. Richard Sherman is usually eloquent and entertaining. But then he goes and shoots his mouth off for twenty unforgettable raving seconds, and he is suddenly the face of the Seahawks. Those who already hate the Hawks are pointing at him as the reason everyone on the team is a thug. As Christians, we hate that the military funeral picketers of Westborough Baptist are the face of the church. If we wish to be extended the courtesy of being judged for who we are individually, we need to offer the same courtesy to others.
4) Twenty seconds of raving lunacy can spoil a lifetime of outstanding achievements. Richard Sherman is an American success story. His parents are hard-working, blue-collar folks who raised their children in the projects. They inspired such respect, the gang members wouldn't let Richard and his brother join. Richard went to Stanford where he graduated in three years with a 3.9 GPA. In two years, he has become a "shut down corner" in the NFL, meaning you don't want to throw the ball in his vicinity because he will shut you down or pick you off. At the end of the NFC Championship game, he made a spectacular play that quite literally saved the game and sent the Hawks to the Super Bowl. Forty-five seconds later, while his blood was still pumping with adrenaline, he had a microphone shoved into his face. He went on a wild rant. It was awe-inspiring...and not in a good way. No one talks about his humble beginnings. Or his hard work to graduate from Stanford. Or his charitable work in his home town. All they want to talk about is that rant. Should he be called on the carpet for it? Absolutely. But if we want to be allowed to make mistakes, we need to be willing to let others do so. We need to love others as we love ourselves.
5) Winners are hated. I'll be honest, as much as I love football, I love baseball more. My poor Seattle Mariners have the reputation of being so bad you know Spring Training is over when they've been mathematically eliminated from the October playoffs. And I hate the NY Yankees. I don't care how much time or money their players give to charities. I don't care if 99% of them are wonderful husbands and fathers. I don't care, period, I just plain hate them. Why? Because they win so often (although not as much lately, which makes me grin). As Christians, we've won. We know the end of the story and we win. Big time. And we are hated for it. It's to be expected. The Seahawks just moved to the top of the hated list. Every football team and fan will be gunning for them. As is true in real life, there is nothing to do about it except prepare for battle and then fight for every inch.
Until next time,