Kyrie Irving, whose day job is playing point guard for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, made a rather surprising comment the other day. With the regular season coming to a close and the playoffs looming, and the Nets being one of the teams heavily touted as a championship contender, Irving noted that he wasn’t primarily focused on basketball. Rather, he was concerned with the roiling strife in hot spots across the globe and his hopes for a resolution. He added this:
“I just think you can’t be afraid to say what you believe in. It’s not about consuming information or trying to be right or politically correct. It’s about doing what God intends us all to do — that’s to stand on the good word of treating everyone with respect, compassion and love.”
A sentiment that’s difficult to oppose.
Much has been made, ever since Colin Kaepernick first stirred the pot, of political/societal protest by professional athletes. It’s easy to identify examples of egregious overreach bordering, if not falling completely into, full-throttle embracing of the ridiculous invariably rooted in who is signing the checks; case in point being LeBron James in 2019 swiftly condemning then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s defense of pro-freedom protestors in Hong Kong. It’s equally easy to note how league-endorsed forays into force-feeding woke political/societal stances have led to alienation among large swaths of the fan base, much of this among conservatives seeking an escape from the pop culture and establishment-led marginalization of any who dare oppose the progressive agenda.
It is precisely at times like these that the escapist pleasure of watching sports becomes all the more desirable. None of us are Star Trek characters; we are neither the emotionless, logic-driven Spock nor the mechanical Zen master Data. We need an occasional break from reality. At which point sports enter the picture.
We know there’s no comparison between attempting to shoot hoops in a driveway and Stephen Curry reaching back for another impossible yet achieved three-pointer. We know there’s no comparison between trying to hit a ball out of the infield this time in a neighborhood pick-up softball game and Mike Trout launching a 98-mile-per-hour fastball into the bleachers. The list goes on. We admire the exquisite skill and near countless hours spent practicing and honing one’s craft required to play sports at the highest level. We cheer and boo, celebrate wins, and grumble over defeats. We are fans looking for fun, which is why we react so strongly when sports figures do their utmost to steal the joy of sports by cramming politics into the games themselves.
For those aware, we all share a common shortcoming. It’s relatively easy to ignore athletes’ and leagues’ off-court political/societal stances, although some seem intent on driving away as many people as possible. We are in the world but not of it, passing through with a smile and occasional shake of the head over what fools these mortals be. Even as the “ball don’t care” what color skin guides its actions, it also cares not a whit about the political philosophies of who guides its actions. Ofttimes the best thing we can do is not care either and simply enjoy the game.
Consider again Kyrie Irving’s words. There is grief and horror in almost every corner of the world, be it the kind characterized by live ammunition being thrown about or the more private devastation wrought when a loved one leaves this earth. There are things far more important than sports, yet sports are still valuable for the positive counterpart they can provide to these sorrows. Why should we allow the silly to drive us away from this pleasure? Take back sports. Don’t cede control to the woke. It’ll make your world, and the world in general, a bit more bearable.