I am watching sports today, but I can't bring myself to cheer for anyone. Reading about the recent events in Kansas City over the past few weeks had made me wonder about our attachment to sports, and our level of fanaticism in general. Today that feeling took on a whole new level of meaning with the news regarding the deaths of Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. While details have not been released, and we may never know the full story, it's hard for me not to wonder about all the words we say about these "stars" and "athletes" who we really don't know at all.
A thanksgiving article on the team's website that spoke of where he was a mere 10 days ago (thankful, driven to succeed . . .which the titled said helped both himself and the team) has been pulled down, but I remember reading it along side many articles out there on other sites that listed him as the worst starter on his team. I also have read more articles about the other events in KC, such as the cheering of an injured QB, and the concern that players didn't hate their opponents but praised them and asked for autographs. Even at the time I thought a moment about how much pressure that must put on people when it seems like everyone hates you and you can't do anything right.
I tell parents of teens I coach and work with regularly that they need to be careful what kind of pressure they put on their children. We often live vicariously through our children under the guise of wanting the "best for them." We want them to succeed, and we go about defining what success looks like for them, often without hearing what they actually are trying to tell us about how they feel. In the form of a family that's something that can be done rather easily, there may have to be some habits changed by parent and child, but there is a relationship that is quite personal at the core. When it comes to players in sports, or politicians we like, or artists, or pastors/writers/speakers or anyone else in the public sphere that we feel a level of commitment or connection to, there isn't that base. We may feel some level of connection through social media, or even the continual running commentary from analysts and talking (typing) heads, but we only really understand these people to a certain level, and really we still are expecting more of them, than they are expecting of us. This unbalanced relationship, and the constant stream of opinion cannot help but create a whole new kind of pressure.
For me, there are a couple of questions this begs. The first is "Do we need to re-examine the place of sports (politics, music, public figures) in our lives?" The second is "If we are going to continue to make these things important in our lives, how do we better see these people as fully human and not just characters in a 'game'?"
I could easily answer "yes, and just being less wrapped up in these things in our lives" and be done with this, but I think the issue is bigger. We are all people looking for acceptance and connection with others, in our search for this we have become people who are willing to accept the pseudo-communities built along like mindedness (that is quite clear in things like sports/politics where there are "winners and losers" and a simple thing that connects us ideologically) rather than focusing on being fully connected with community. If we would actually get to know the diversity and connect to the people (and thus their problems) who see in our daily lives, we would become more wrapped up in this life we're living rather than having our lives swing on the actions of others and our escape from reality. It is escaping this reality that creates a false reality where we create pressure and anxiety in the lives of those who we don't even know.
Let us not add to problems we cannot fix. Let us not be wrapped up in the lives of those we do not know, but let us get to know those who we live with, and let their lives wrap us up.