In sports, it is not uncommon to hear rhetoric about values and integrity, role models and the virtues of teamwork. Such ideals are noble in and of themselves, but are so easily co-opted. ‘Family values’ especially is often no more than a code work for repression and narrow orthodoxy; ‘teamwork’ is familiar to any employee as a warning that you are about to be asked to sacrifice your individuality, pride, creativity, and intelligence in order to more consistently and easily ensure a level of productive mediocrity.
In a way, this could be argued as the inevitable and more or less desired result of a successful democracy; nobody stands out, so everyone is equal. We are mediocre people, represented by mediocre leaders, distracting ourselves with mediocre entertainers.
But is isn’t always this way. Look back to childhood and the freedom of expression that is often exhibited by children in imaginary play. As an example is the wonderful make believe play of little girls when they dress up as princesses. Parents can encourage this by buying kids princess dresses for inspiring creative imaginary play. These princess outfits often include all “necessary” accessories such as tiaras, crowns, or cone hats (for medieval princesses), gloves, tutus and pettiskirts, capes and cloaks, shoes, and the all important wand. It’s quite amazing what a few props can do to have a young child’s mind soar beyond the mediocre. It’s too bad that in many cases, parents and society eventually repress that individuality and creativity.
We resent and suspect excellence, as it is so often unattainable by the majority; to compensate, we elevate individuals only on the basis of luck and popular opinion…all the time clinging to the religion of economics, in which the pursuit of money is not simply a practical consideration, but expected and exalted.
Take LeBron James and Damon Jones, for example — the only two players who refused to sign Ira Newble’s 2007 letter condemning China for its role in the Sudanese genocide. Of course, LeBron James is representing the NBA’s project to start a league in China, as well as getting nearly a billion dollars from good ol’ Nike, who would marry China if it could. And Jones has a less lucrative but still unimaginably huge deal with Li Ning, a shoe company from (where? You guessed it).
So extra kudos to Newble, and decent-sized congrats to basically every other player in the NBA who signed the letter. Obviously there is still some semblance of a conscience left in professional sports. As in the world at large, you can find it a lot more often near the bottom than you can at the top.
Why is it that in this day & age there are so many people willing to do what is right while some people who can do the most good refuse to do anything but line their own pockets. It seems that the world would be in a very different place if those who could change the world cared enough to do so even if it means taking a stand & drawing a line in the sand. Instead we those who are in power trying to use it to add to the mountain of money they already have.
There is a point were enough is enough & we are quickly traveling towards a point of no return. We would do well to remember that we have a responsibility to help all those less fortunate than ourselves when it is possible.