Memo to Professional Athletes

We’ve seen and heard about Friday night’s NBA brawl in Auburn Hills, Mich. We’re not impressed.

We are impressed by tremendous feats of athleticism – high-flying slam dunks and acrobatic catches – because we can’t do them ourselves. We are impressed by the ability to perform and the will to compete and win on a grand stage.

We are impressed by these things because you entertain us. We are not impressed enough to worship you as heroes. We recognize you as flawed and fallen human beings, like ourselves, only with extraordinary physical gifts.

We are not impressed when you lose not only your temper – but all sense of professional, decent and appropriate behavior – and take out your aggressions on the fans. We are also not impressed by the obnoxious “fans” who are so out of line as to taunt players with crude words and gestures and throw their beverages at them. But such provocation does not justify violent, thuggish behavior.

We are not impressed by attempts to excuse and belittle such behavior or to cry out for sympathy because of some self-imposed victimhood. We don’t think your millions of dollars and celebrity status exempt you from behaving civilly off the court. We don’t think it exempts you on the court or playing field from failing to respect the sport, your franchise, your teammates, and your fans.

We are impressed by the many professional athletes who do their job with skill and grace and class, don’t complain about trivialities, and leave a positive mark on their sport, their community and their culture.

We are impressed by the many professional athletes who would be honest enough to tell you that they aren’t the real heroes. They can’t run away from being role models, in many ways similar to the fact that parents can’t run away from being role models. You’ll either be one – for good or bad. And in the end, it won’t matter how high you jump, how fast you run, how hard you hit, if you don’t know how to conduct yourself.

We are impressed by the real heroes – the men and women of our Armed Forces who sacrifice so much to preserve our freedoms. The vast majority of them act out of duty and love of country, selflessly, often putting their lives in danger so we all can live comfortably and worship and speak freely – so some multimillionaire athletes can whine about something being unfair.

This sports fan, at least, would also point his reader to the ultimate hero: Jesus Christ. Any earthly hero we have will ultimately let us down because we are all fallen creatures. But He will not. His matchless, profound, divine sacrifice ministers to every aching and needy human soul down through the ages. Emmanuel, God With Us. He confronted us with our own innate shortcomings and provided the Way of reconciliation by taking our well-deserved punishment for us. In this case, being impressed is not enough.

What this culture and this world has to offer is ultimately empty and hollow. Money, fame, popularity, power, status, toys, even human affection, all fade away. Sometimes it takes a blatant example for us to see it.

No, Ron Artest (he’s not the focus of the problem, just the latest example), we’re not impressed. Own up to it, take the punishment, seek restitution, find the answer. Then I’d be impressed.

Please also read what Bob has to say.