Thursday, September 12, 2013

Trash Talk

The first week of the NFL season is in the books. And the trash talk has begun. I guess it's a lot easier to talk trash early in the season. There aren't many scoreboards for people to point at.

  • Seattle fans talking of buy bricks at the 49ers new stadium and inscribing them with phrases like "Go Hawks".
  • 49ers player Dixon posts a tweet calling Seattle the "She-Hawks".
  • Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, and some players accuse the NY Giants of faking injuries to give themselves a breather.
  • Then the Giants' player in question responds with a crack about Jerry Jones having his son-in-law clean his glasses.
  • All this talk about whether the Packers, and Clay Matthews in particular, are "targeting" Colin Kaepernick. Then in the game Matthews hits Kaepernick with a late tackle and the 49ers coach, Jim Harbough, describes it as a slap.
  • Matthews responded in a media conference describing himself as "an awesome player... not dirty". I don't know if that last comment was Matthews just defending himself or if he was also taking a shot at division rival Ndamukong Suh who the NFL fined $100,000 this week for a late tackle.
and this is just after Week 1!!

Christians face some interesting decisions when it comes to sledging or trash talk. In many ways it's fun and part of the game. Players participate to gain a psychological edge over the opponents (ior just because they don't like them). Fans join in because it's one way that we can participate in the competition between teams. We're not on the field, but we can sure talk big. But sometimes this kind of talk is destructive and unGodly.

I taught a class last night on idolatry. I was basing my lesson on the first chapter of Mark Driscoll's book, "Who Do You Think You Are?" He uses an acronym for the word IDOLS. Without rehashing the entire lesson, his thoughts on O relate to this topic of trash talking.

O stands for the idea that sometimes we make idols out of our connection to Others. This is very evident in sports when our sense of self-worth often increases when our team wins. We take pride because the team I happened to randomly choose to follow happened to win this week, or this year. Therefore I am better than you.

Driscoll makes this statement,

"While it is good to have community, we often turn this good thing into a bad thing by basing our identity on and idolizing our tribes. If you idolize your tribe, you will also demonize other tribes.

This past weekend also marked the first week of finals (playoffs) in AFL (Australia). I'm very happy to report that "my team" (Carlton) won. Making it even better was that Carlton only made the finals (playoffs) because traditional rival Essendon was eliminated from the finals by the league for their "supplements scandal". Then making the weekend even better is that Collingwood, the other traditional major rival of Carlton, lost! It's just a nice feeling.

It's so easy to get caught up in the roles the football culture imposes upon fans and rub their defeats and disappointments in the faces of Collingwood and Essendon supporters.

But I am so thankful for the example of my grandfather. I truly believe he rescued me from a life of fanaticism. He was a Collingwood supporter, but he is also one of the gentlest men I've known.

One weekend after his team had beaten mine in a huge game with finals implications I was still running on adrenaline (yes, just from watching it on TV) and really expecting him to act like crazy fans on TV and gloat about their victory. Instead, he just commented that it was good game and he knew how disappointing it was to lose that one.

The grace he gave to me completely took the wind out of my sails. I'm not saying that I always match his example. I still like to gloat at times. I mean, I now live near Buffalo where the Bills always lose. If I waited for them to win to say something...!!

By all means Christians should enjoy the banter that comes with supporting a sports team, but lets keep it lighthearted. Let's "Love our neighbours as ourselves". And let's remember that "A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire."

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