As I watched my boys (Arizona Cardinals) play Da Bears November 8th, I was stunned during one play when Chicago's defensive tackle Tommie Harris threw a massive punch at Cards' offensive lineman Deuce Lutui. These are both giant guys and football is a really physical game, so what's the big deal? At the time of the assault, Lutui was lying still and face-down on the turf. Harris was immediately ejected from the game and has since offered extensive public apologies.
But this is just the latest in a stream of unsportsmanlike behavior in recent weeks. On September 3rd, Oregon tailback LeGarrette Blount sucker-punched Byron Hout, a Boise State player, after the game. Hout was smiling and oblivious as he walked off the field when Blount creamed him.
And it isn't just the boys. University of New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert was caught in high def as she slapped, punched and kicked her way through the Mountain West Conference Women's Soccer semi-final last Thursday against Brigham Young University. The grand finale has been replayed time and again (often in slow motion) as she powerfully yanked a girl to the ground by her pony tail.
Then, last week there was a brawl on the field of a girls' high school soccer match in Rhode Island, igniting a big scuffle in the stands among fans.
Where is all this ugliness coming from? When I participated in youth sports (many, many years ago) and even when my kids played, rules were made clear and there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the consequences for breaking them would be severe, even if you were provoked or called a nasty name.
These are games, not warfare. This is not a matter of life or death, kill or be killed. There has obviously been a breakdown somewhere along the line. But I'll leave that to another analyst.
I want to get back to fruit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness..." There seem to be some empty baskets out there; people of all races, ages and genders who are exhibiting the opposite of these traits on game fields everywhere.
I'm not implying that you have to be soft, passive or indifferent while playing a game. Kurt Warner is (again) a great example of this. He is an intense, tough competitor but never lacks self-control. He isn't narcissistic or arrogant; he gives his best efforts (within the rules of the game) to help his team win. He doesn't hate the opponent, and in fact is known to offer encouragement to those not wearing Cardinal red.
I challenge you to look around this week for young people to influence. Your children or grandkids, neighbor kids, nieces and nephews...or volunteer to mentor a child...but there is a gaping hole when it comes to good influence. Helping young ones learn this important lesson, through the obvious example of sports, will affect the future of our country. Sounds lofty, I know, but these same kids will be voting and shaping public policies in the years to come. Fair play, selflessness, humility and generosity are traits that will be enormous assets as they decide our future.Find kids with "empty baskets" or baskets filled with rotting fruit and help them to fill it up with plenty of good stuff. Have you seen recent examples of rotten fruit? What are you (or someone you know) doing to replenish or refresh a kid's fruit basket? Share below.