Jess and I will be heading back to Haiti soon, and we are also about to start series of blogs to begin the New Year that you will not want to miss. But I did not want to miss the chance to write about something that struck me the other day as I was watching the College Football playoff games. I am a fan of sports, and football and basketball specifically. If Georgia Tech had made the playoffs (or even made a bowl game for that matter) then I would have been glued to the television set. In fact, when I was younger, I used to do the “scream at the television, have superstitious things that I thought (at least in part) determined the outcome of games, and allow a game to alter my mood” thing. At some point, I made the personal decision to not allow the triumphs and failures of 18-22 year-old kids affect my life, but I also understand the role that we have allowed these athletes to play in our lives and our society for better and for worse. So today I am writing a blog about something that I noticed the other day about humility.
At the end of the Georgia-Oklahoma game, one of the UGA players began shouting something to the affect of “Humble yourself, Humble yourself” to the quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner) from Oklahoma. It was an interesting moment, and an interesting choice of words at the end of one of the better college football games I have seen in a while. I didn’t think much more about it until I noticed on social media that there were some who were almost congratulating the UGA player for teaching the world a lesson about humility. I have even seen pictures of the player with Bible verses about humility attached to the images. So think about that…A guy, after winning a great game, begins to yell one of the least humble and possibly most arrogant things he could have said to the guy that he just beat and grown adults are hailing him as having taught a lesson about humility. I do not fault the guy, he is a kid who had just won the most important game for UGA in the past 40 years and kids are kids. Just like I don’t fault Oklahoma’s quarterback (he was over the top a few times) for many of the things he has done because he is just a kid who has been the best college football player in the nation the past 2-3 years. I do, however, fault any adult who tried to pass this off as a lesson on humility, especially as a lesson to children.
My caution for all of us, myself included, is to not allow sports to teach lessons that it cannot teach! Sports can teach us about teamwork, dedication, discipline, and many other things (including humility with correct teacher) but only in the right context. Too often we try to allow institutions such as sports, schools, churches, television, etc. to teach our kids things that we (as parents) should be teaching them. I am in no way saying that we should not use these institutions as tools to show our children the good and bad in the world. What I am saying is that we cannot let those things alone teach our kids without putting context with the lessons. For instance, if we tell our kids that what happened at the end of that game was a great example of humility, are we also saying that the next time they win a game against an arrogant opponent that we want to them to yell in that opponents face?
The point of this blog is not to disparage OU or UGA, but to help us to see the importance of teaching our own children lessons through sports, athletes, teachers, pastors, etc. rather than allowing those things to raise our kids. This became evident to me after the first time I saw our kids in Haiti play a competitive soccer game. I remember Herbison scoring a goal and every kid at our orphanage (both on and off the field) running around in circles yelling like crazy people. In that same game, the other team played a little roughly and our kids (Herbison again by the way) started playing just as dirty. At that point, I realized that they had learned how to play soccer (and sports in general) by watching games on television and learning from those wonderful “role models” that are professional and collegiate athletes. At that point I realized that our kids needed more than that to teach them about sports, and I also realized that what they were learning on the field was running into their actual lives and this was unacceptable. Here is what I learned:
It is up to us as adults to put what our children learn on the athletic field and see on television into a context that can help them become the men and women they are supposed to be, the men and women GOD has called them to be.