Being Better Humans

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.

Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

I’ve always been a casual football fan, mostly for the camaraderie of watching with friends rather than the game itself – I just don’t get the obsession with the sport. I’ve lived in big football cities (Atlanta, Denver, New York) so I am tangentially aware of the rivalries, football personalities and side stories (“he shot himself in the leg, what?”, “Girl, she burned down his house!”). I was okay with my interest being limited to the pomp and circumstance around the Super Bowl.

Me, freezing in Denver at then Invesco Field back in 2008 and longing for the warmth of what was then known as the Georgia Dome.

Even with my limited knowledge of the game, I’ve thought that elements of NFL culture and how they were handled by the league were problematic from CTE to domestic violence. Even though I should’ve been done before this point, the way Colin Kaepernick was treated… the reason he was kneeling in the first place and the reaction by the league, owners and some fans sealed it for me. I stopped even casually watching.

But last Sunday afternoon, as scrolled through social media, I started to see posts in my network that ranged from… “somebody check on Antonio Brown” , “Antonio Brown. Wow, he is not ok.”, “Antonio Brown needs help asap”, “Antonio Brown must have CTE”, “Antonio Brown is bipolar”. “We just witnessed a mental health crisis on national television, where is his circle?”

to…“can we stop making excuses for Antonio Brown now? He is an ass-clown and deserves no more chances”, “Antonio Brown is the village idiot,” “Antonio Brown is crazy,” “Antonio Brown is selfish, I heard this was about them freezing him out of getting his monetary milestone.”

I was interested in what was going on due to the vast difference in sentiments. I wasn’t familiar with Antonio Brown or his history*, but I was gravitating towards those who were showing concern for him versus those who were talking about him in disgust and as though he were a commodity.

On the spot judgments were being made about him and why he left the field, due to his prior history, without a full understanding of what had taken place. Think about how often we tend to do that to people in our own lives and how we don’t like when it’s done to us. We react to moments without looking at causation.

On Monday, I saw a comment that disturbed me more than the others… “he is no longer a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Thank God. On the field, he’s valuable. Off, not so much…” How easily do we discount people when we’re upset or when they are of no further use to us? How do we get to a point to think that a human is of no value?

Humanity is in too little supply these days. If humans aren’t >>> than football in this particular equation, our society will undoubtedly crumble. But we already knew that. See: people who would fight over toilet paper or don’t want to do the bare minimum of wearing a mask to protect others during a pandemic.

Why does it seem as though Kanye is the only one who gets a pass on anything he does because of suspected mental health issues? Is it because of the perceived value in what he provides to the entertainment culture? And in this day and age, who doesn’t have struggles with their mental health? We’ve all been through a lot in the past two years and counting. Aren’t we all worthy of receiving grace?

*Edited to add: a friend linked me to a rundown of his history after I hit “publish”. I think my point of having grace for people still stands, but that doesn’t mean you condone or defend their behavior. I have a better understanding on why some people feel the way they did on Sunday. Issues experienced by Mr. Brown needed addressing way before Sunday, which goes back to my original issue with the NFL. Now I go back to thinking about other things. Okay, why is Aaron Rodgers trending? I’m not going to look.

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