Gronk, JuJu, etc.

Three professionals viciously hit others in their weekend work. Were they intentional? At least some were. Each initially suspended NFL player heard from NFL VP of Football Operations Jon Runyan…

To New England’s Rob Gronkowski, who launched his body on top of a down man, forcibly hitting him in the back of the head when the play was already over:

“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.’ Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday.”

To Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, who blindsided a linebacker, put him on the ground, and then stood on top of the defender he personally put into concussion protocol, gloating about his self-perceived accomplishment:

“You are suspended for the dangerous and unsportsmanlike acts you committed during the fourth quarter of last night’s game. Specifically, with 7:10 remaining, on a passing play to a running back, you lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area. You then ‘celebrated’ the play by standing over him and taunting him. The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided. Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.”

And to Cincinnati’s George Iloka, who speared a still-in-the-air, opposing receiver dangerously in the head, potentially taking revenge for Smith-Schuster…

“On a play which began with 3:55 left in the game, you violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game’ and has encouraged the league office to suspend offenders for egregious violations such as the one you committed last night.”

[Note: all three appealed their suspensions; only Iloka’s was reversed.]

Here’s the thing…

What each of the above did was wrong. It was bad behavior, poor judgment, awful, sinful, vicious, you-name-it. As one of my brothers said simply but profoundly, “If that happens on the street rather than the football field, it would be a crime.” That’s how violent each hit was.

So hence, the question…

Does being a Patriots fan keep us from seeing Gronkowski’s viciousness?
Does being a Steelers fan blind us from wrestling with the sad haughtiness of JuJu’s gloating after the hit?
And does being a Bengals fan make us think what Iloka did was not really all that bad?

In other words, does our loyalty impede our objectivity?

What about in areas more sobering and serious than football?

What about regarding the current focus on harassment, abuse, and sexual misconduct?

Does being loyal to a person or party keep us from seeing the viciousness?

Can we still wrestle with reality?

Or do we become a little more lenient, depending who the allegations are against, thinking it couldn’t have been quite so bad?

For the record, I root for the Bengals; Gronkowski is a key player on my playoff-bound fantasy team; and one of my besties is a diehard Steeler fan. Hence, I am significantly challenged here.

Our challenge, no less, should never diminish our objectivity.


gratitude… it’s good for our health

So this week I was challenged in the area of gratitude. I was challenged to be intentional in practicing it. Let’s face it. Grateful people are not grumpy people. And it’s no fun being grumpy.

Take not my word for it. Take Harvard’s…

Twelve years ago, three postdoctoral fellows who were concerned about the anxiety and depression that heart disease can set off designed the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Harvard Medical School.

As reported earlier this year in the Harvard Gazette:

“Patients set for discharge attend an in-person training session and receive a manual with eight to 16 weeks of daily exercises. These exercises include writing letters of gratitude, performing acts of kindness, and reflecting on past successes. Participants also receive a weekly phone call from one of the program’s five trainers, who reviews the previous week, reinforces the positive message, and encourages exercise and other goals.

‘I try to emphasize gratitude: Think of three positive events during the week, small or large,’ said Carol Mastromauro, a social worker and trainer who has been with the program from the start. ‘I ask people to practice that if they’re sitting in a traffic jam. In a way, it’s kind of homework. Give yourself a breather, take a mini-vacation.’

The three studies conducted by the program so far have highlighted its ability to improve patient outlooks, Huffman said. Three more now underway are testing the link between a positive mental attitude and health.

‘What we’ve learned so far — small but important steps — is that if we ask patients to learn how to identify the good things in their life — write a letter of gratitude, imagine a better future, do acts of kindness — people with heart disease and other chronic illnesses are willing to sign up for the studies, willing to do the interventions and feel better when they do, with increased happiness, decreased anxiety, decreased depression,’ Huffman said. ‘We feel pretty confident about that.’”

Note the effects of a grateful life… identifying the good things… intentionally thanking and focusing on others… A grateful life may even actually help us live longer.

And yet, expressing gratitude for what we already have seems so countercultural to a society that is always pushing us for something “more”…

… more money…
… more success…
… more power…
… more offense…
… more influence…

But what would it change if we looked at what we had as enough?

What would it change — not that we need to stop striving, seeking, and finding — but what would it change if our focus was less on our stuff and less on our self but more thankful for what’s in our life and for others?

Isn’t that the reality?

Grumpiness is often self-focused.

I mean no disrespect, friends. I mean, I can be grumpy with the best of them.

But more often than not, when I am grumpy, it’s usually because of something I don’t like or I’m frustrated with or I’m mad about or choose to show no grace or patience or empathy for. Grumpy is thus often based on “me.” When I’m grumpy, I’m not generous with my gratitude… my grace either.

Today — aware of the holiday season ahead of us — why don’t we intentionally choose gratitude?

Sounds like it’d be good for our health.


what happens when we know the harasser?

On Wednesday many watched NBC’s “Today Show” anchor, Savannah Guthrie, struggle to maintain her poise as she announced the firing of Matt Lauer due to alleged sexual misconduct. Shortly after 7 a.m., Guthrie announced the termination of her professional peer and personal friend.

“… As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this…

… We are heartbroken.

I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is beloved by many, many people here.

And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

Guthrie was visibly, emotionally shaken.

In recent weeks accusations have been made toward many. Primarily toward men at this point, the alleged bad behavior knows no bounds, as its been accused in men of all ages, races, parties, etc. — even in men who have long claimed to be advocates for women.

One respected friend of mine, who has long professionally advocated for women and victims of abuse and domestic violence, was asked this week if she was surprised. “No, not at all.” For years she’s heard stories; for years she’s worked with victims. For years she’s been aware of the probability of kept secrets by our favorite anchors, actors, teachers, business owners, etc. Even by our friends.

That’s the challenge; is it not?

There is no defense for the man who harasses a woman. (True, there is no defense for the woman who harasses a man, but such is not part of the current cultural conversation.) But what happens, when the person who behaves badly — like Lauer and Guthrie — is known and loved by us?

What happens when we know them?

As Guthrie stated at the end of her announcement, “We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don’t know the answer to that.”

Does knowing the person — and knowing them well — change anything?

It certainly does not change the lack of defense (… and on a total tangent, I’d really like to see our defense of the person not alter or be more or less grace-giving pending party affiliation or fear of losing that person’s potential vote… wrong is wrong is wrong…).

But here’s the challenge… There will be a “next.” There will be a “next” for Matt Lauer, a “next” for Kevin Spacey, a “next” for Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, and all those accused. There’s a whole list of accusations; granted, we don’t know at this point if they are all true. But if to the extent that the allegations are true and the abuser is repentant and remorseful — if they humble themselves and change from their wicked ways — do we allow them to have a “what’s next”?

Do we allow them to serve their time, so-to-speak, and then positively contribute to society once again?

Or are they now deemed incapable? … we’re simply done with them, and they just need to be quiet and fade into the backdrop of life so we never hear from them any more?

Or… (and this is a big “or”) does it depend on if we know and love them?

In other words, assuming individual repentance, do we only forgive those we know? Or do we forgive none of them?

This is today’s zillion dollar question, friends. And it’s a tough one. Please know, too, that forgiveness never equates to an absence of wise boundaries, an ignorance of consequence, nor pretending that the offense never happened. Forgiveness instead means we release our anger and resentment toward a person, recognizing how the fiercely holding on primarily only hurts us.

Are we selective in our offering and withholding of forgiveness and acceptance?

Or again, as Guthrie states, “… How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”