Monday, January 16, 2017

The Two Greatest Words in the English Language: What if...and Sports

With a colleague on paternity leave, I am once again teaching Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Social Justice. An outstanding course, the curriculum is as real as it gets. Just this past week, I shared a video clip from "The Miniature Earth Project" (set to Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia"). Their objective is to let the world know: If we could turn the population of the earth into a small community of 100 people, keeping the same proportions we have today, it would be something like this... 

It is poignant and interesting. For example 47 out of 100 people live in urban areas. 33 are Christian, 18 are Muslim, 14 are Hindu, 13 practice other religions, 6 are Buddhists and 16 are non-religious. However, many of the statistics are also overwhelming. For example, 13 go hungry or are malnourished. 14 can't read and only 7 are educated at a secondary level. Too many lack access to clean drinking water, etc. I use a video like this as an invitation to pray. Other teachers (and most likely the creators of the project) want to draw awareness to what is....and hopefully give humanity a place to ask What if?
The late MLK asked us to join in his dream. He too wanted us to use what my friend Alex Montoya believes are the two greatest words in the English language, "What if..." I think creativity, hard word, passion, solidarity, wisdom and grit is the only way we can get closer to that the other side. But, before we do, I think it's worth knowing not just the deficiencies and inequalities, but the abundance, and sometimes the down right absurdity we hold as well (to which I am also guilty). I say that because good bad or otherwise, sports reveals it all.

Tonight in Oakland, I hope a prayer vigil brings people together to reflect upon Dr. King's dream and how it might be achieved forcefully, yet peacefully. I hope their hearts will be inspired by the prophet Amos, who said
Rather let justice surge like waters,and righteousness like an unfailing stream.
But there is another event that's taking place that will capture the hearts and minds of thousands throughout the Bay Area: the return of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time since Game 7 of the 2016 NBA finals. That's right, LeBron and Kyrie Irving will once again face off against the Splash Brothers—Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson as well as Draymond Green. The Dubs have another weapon in their arsenal, one six-time All Star Kevin Durant (who signed a two-year contract for $54 million). When the game tips-off at 5:00 pm tonight, this is what you should know. The other stats may speak to the grim reality in your community.

Once every home stand, some Warriors fan pays minimum $700 to sit court side. As mentioned many times before, please do not fill those seats with anyone under the age of 18. Ever. Tonight, no fewer than 8 to 10 of the court side seats will indeed be occupied by a minor AND a group of four spent $52,088 on StubHub to be there, a stat reported by That's $13,022 a seat. 

One in every four subscribers to Sports Illustrated is female, and so  is one in every five people who played a round of golf in 2016. I know this, because I am that stat. Such numbers are far from criminal. If I were to be charged and convicted in a court in heaven, it might have to do with the inordinate amount of my income I have put toward hitting that 1.8" ball. Or, the countless hours that could have been put toward feeding the hungry rather than myself while watching football, baseball, basketball, and golf both live and in person, in a bar, Dino's pizza and my very own living room. Maybe yours too.
One in every ten Americans is a Dallas Cowboys fan. Ok, maybe that stat is inflated but Jack Dickey of Sports Illustrated writes "In the 15 Harris Polls since 1998 asking fans to pick their favorite NFL team, Dallas has been voted No. 1 10 times, including the most recently released edition, in 2015." That's quite a feat given that this team, valued at $4 billion had a winning percentage of .500 from 1997-2015, ranked 16th in the sport! (worse than the Jets and barely better than the Chargers). The moniker "America's team" is not in vain. BTW: exciting game against the Pack. I have to admit I enjoyed it knowing that at very limited if any tax dollars were put toward building AT&T Stadium. 

Speaking of which... every 22 years, the people of Arlington, Texas (may) vote for a new Rangers ballpark.  The one they are seeking (with a retractable roof) will only cost $1 billion. Fans agreed to pay for $500 million of it. At least they got two more years out of their ballpark than the Braves did. After 20 years at Turner Field, the Braves will relocate to a suburban ballpark in Cobbs County. I guess it's a positive that they will fund it for $100 million less, with an approval of $400 million in public money.

Every year, the free-spending Dodgers payroll increases as it does for the Yankees, Cubs, Giants and well, anytime that seeks to be in the post-season come Fall. But According to ESPN (a forecast from 2012).
Zack Greinke is about to earn approximately $147 million through 2018.• Adrian Gonzalez is owed $127 million through 2018.• Carl Crawford is due $102.5 million through 2017.• Matt Kemp has $108 million coming through 2019.• Andre Ethier is owed $85 million through 2017. 
Whew. Got that? 
That comes to more than a half-billion dollars (about $569.5 million, in case your hard drive just blew up before it computed it). For five players. Five.
Oh wait, Greinke signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks instead. He opted out of the sixth year of his contract with the Dodgers and packed his bags for Phoenix where he became the highest paid player in MLB. He signed a 6-year deal for $206.5 million. I once said if "what if" are the two greatest words, than "words cannot describe" are the three. In this case, maybe not.

I love sports—from amateur to professional. I can't imagine American life, or my own without them. I realize they are a huge, big business. As stated hundreds of times before, I also believe they are an invitation into understanding the spiritual life, recreation should not be underestimated nor should the beauty of the game or of athletes. St. Augustine wrote, Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eyes of the heart, whereby God may be seen." When I see the business of sport in the ways I have written about today, I know why sports and spirituality may be such a challenge for many to even consider. So let us continue to ask....What if?

Photo Credits
New D-back
Cowboys vs Packers

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