CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Life and Faith for the Years of Winter
The IU basketball team lost two games in a row, at home, to start the Big 10 season. Happened only twice in the 128 years of IU basketball. Since then we have lost even more and looked bad even when we won. I am in a funk. The entirety of my identity is the result of IU basketball. I expect any moment to receive a tweet from Donald Trump saying, “Loser!” And I will react maturely, by saying, “No, you are.”
Things have gotten only slightly better for the basketballing Hoosiers. The reasons are clear. We have bad coaches. The referees are against us. Those Indiana high school stars should stay home and play for IU instead of going to foreign places like MI and OH. IU needs to spend more money on basketball instead of irrelevant academic stuff.
Those have to be the reasons. It couldn’t possibly be because the other teams are better, because they aren’t. They can’t possibly be better, because they are not us. [Or “we” if you are one of those types].
All you need to know is that “it’s us against them.”
That’s okay if it’s basketball. Well, almost okay. Too much “us against them” and you get poor sportsmanship, at which most folks these days would blink and say, “Poor what?”
I read a Sports Illustrated article recently about Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the National Football League’s Pittsburg Steelers.  Everyone agrees that when he was new in the league, he was a real jerk, who thought everyone should give him anything and everything, him giving nothing in return, because he was the star quarterback. Nobody liked him, including his teammates. He was twice accused of sexual assault. He was not convicted in either case, but everyone agreed it was the sort of thing he would do because he just assumed he should have anything he wanted.
By all accounts, he learned his lesson and is now a good teammate, family man, and citizen. Many people, especially women, still don’t trust him, however. Some folks were talking about that and one man pointed out a woman in the room and said, “She’s such a big Steeler’s fan, he could even commit murder and she’d still be for him.” She overheard and laughed and said, “Yes, that’s probably right.”
Now I’m sure she didn’t mean that, but it points up the “us vs. them” mentality of everything we do these days. There is no objective standard of ethics and morality to which everyone needs to adhere. Anything our team does is okay because it’s OUR team. Anything the other team does is wrong, not because it’s wrong, but because it’s THEM.
You can have football, or basketball, that way. You can’t have a nation, a civilization, a culture, that way. Today we inaugurate a president who embodies “us vs. them” more than anyone in our history. Of course, he would not have had a chance at election had not the entire political culture moved toward “us vs. them” over the last 35 years.
One thing I have noticed in recent weeks, on Facebook and elsewhere, is that whenever someone criticizes Trump, the immediate response by Trump supporters is, “Hillary did worse.” While it is true that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump, she is not being inaugurated as president today. From now on, if Trump is criticized, there is no escape through comparison. No one can say, “Well, Hillary…”
My Grandma Pond used to talk about people who were willing “to cut off their nose to spite their face.” Christians these days, above all else, need to be plastic surgeons, helping to restore noses to disfigured faces. Maybe even practicing good sportsmanship.
We won’t survive with “us vs them.” We’ll survive only if it’s all “US.”
I tweet as yooper1721.
1] When our girls were little, the Steelers were in their heyday, the “Steel Curtain” and Terry Bradshaw and “The Immaculate Reception,” and all that. I told them the reason the Stealers played so well was that they were in jail because of their stealing, and were let out on the weekends to play football. If they won, they got to stay out for the week, so they played hard. Also, they weren’t very bright, so they misspelled Stealers as Steelers. They were considerably chagrined when they told this story to friends in graduate school and learned it was not totally correct.