Did Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks offer a sincere handshake to Michael Crabtree in the heat of the moment and was his comment, “Hell of a game, hell of a game!”, real? Only Richard Sherman can answer that.
He seems like a nice guy, postgame rant notwithstanding. It did make me think that youngsters take their cues from the best players in the world and that my son and nephews and cousins all play ball, and that they watch these interviews and on-field behaviors.
My son wasn’t a star, he didn’t always get to play a lot, but I was always proud of how he carried himself, how he worked and supported his teammates. And I remember a touchdown he scored in the fifth grade and how he celebrated. I found this letter in my files today and after hearing football players say “I” all week on ESPN, rather than “We”, I read this letter, written to my son three years ago.
Last week I watched cousin Tyler Davis emerge from the pile of 5th grade football players and run over to where his brother Easton was standing, whereupon, he declared, “I pan caked that guy…then put on syrup.” Maybe an expression of football swagger I’d never considered. A couple of hours later, I was watching Easton play wide receiver at Union Tuttle Stadium and late in the game the quarterback threw a fade route from about the south 20 yard line into the Southeast corner of the end zone over Easton’s shoulder and the defender was blocking a clear view of the play but I thought Easton caught the ball. However, based on his reaction of nonchalance, Clint and I could not tell whether it was a catch. Eventually Easton emerged for the far corner of the end zone and trotted toward the middle of the goal line handing the ball calmly to the referee. It was a “Been there, done that” reaction with little fanfare, no taunting, no celebration, just a score and back to work. You don’t see that inner composure and humility often anymore in the high school, college and pro game. In fact, in the wake of arrogant celebration and individual expression of self-accomplishment at the expense of a recognition that ten other players were on the field at the time of the touchdown, some have felt compelled to legislate away joy from that part of the game by penalizing excessive celebration…whatever that means. And so officials sternly stare down each touchdown like a sour-faced school principal viewing a playground fully expecting poor behavior at any moment.
And so in our culture of self-expression and do whatever you feel is appropriate as long is it doesn’t hurt another, humility is a virtue that gets little attention.
Rubel Shelley says it this way.
In athletics, we call it “swagger.” In the halls of the academy, it is “pomp and circumstance.” In business and high finance, it is “perks.” On the streets, it can be called anything from “attitude” to “posturing” to “respect.” And while none of these terms is evil or inappropriate, our shallow culture has come to define them in terms of a feigned superiority that lets one person or group step on another. So the football player dances in the end zone or over the opponent he tackles, and the pitcher in baseball pretends to be a gunslinger when he strikes out the other team’s cleanup hitter. In the university or company, the person who gets the promotion gloats over the one who didn’t…the result is not healthy self-esteem on display but boorish, uncivil, and cruel behavior – behavior of the sort that creates fights and vendettas when two persons or groups of the same mindset meet. Humility means acknowledging we all stand on others’ shoulders. We all know too little to put others down.
One of my favorite moments from your 5th grade football games occurred at the home field at the Mid-High. You were playing fullback and we had the ball on the south 20 yard line about mid-hash. Kirby turned left and handed you the ball for a simple off-tackle play, but you popped it outside and hit a seam and raced down the east sideline. Just as you hit the 5 yard line, your body was obstructed by other players, but as you neared the goal, I saw your helmet rise into the air and you floated over the goal line as you scored a touchdown. Just a simple little bunny-hop and skip over the goal and then you handed the ball to the official. You acted like you had been there…but still had the joy of what had been accomplished without excessive in-your-face behavior. I’ve always remembered that little bobbing up of your helmet as a moment that I was very proud of you…not because you scored a touchdown, although that was cool, but that you got a kick out of it…that it was fun.
I’m sometimes frustrated by kids these days…that they are not respectful…not humble enough…not aware that they stand on the shoulders of others. But sometimes they teach an old guy like me about respect for tradition and for your opponent. I played a lot of competitive golf this summer in the Oklahoma State Amateur and other tournaments and played against some good young college and high school golfers. One characteristic about these kids that I played and sometimes beat was that they were respectful of the game and opponent and at match end, they would remove their cap, shake hands and wish the opponent good match and best wishes. I didn’t grow up removing my cap after the match although I’ve always been keen to the idea of sportsmanship and good etiquette and respect for opponent. But I love that the kids have taught me…and now I remove my cap out of respect for the game and the player I just beat or who just beat me…something I probably didn’t do ten years ago. It’s cool that twenty year old kids taught me that.
Keep having fun…just like when you crossed the goal in 5th grade. Don’t be afraid to celebrate…but also remember the words of C.S. Lewis,
“Humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking of oneself less.”
I love you,
“Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2)