fallen from grace

We noticed. My kids noticed, too. We have multiple sports fans in the family, so while it wasn’t discussed much at first, we all were paying attention. Once again, for the first time in years, Tiger Woods was relevant. At the lesser-known Valspar Championship — one of manifold Masters warm ups — Woods is again flirting with the leaderboard. He has played some excellent golf this weekend, as once again, in a seemingly instant nostalgic return, the silent gallery swarmed around him, progressing from hole to hole.

“It was his back, right?”

True. Since April of 2015, Woods has undergone three microdiscectomy procedures and a spinal fusion to deal with a disk issue in his lower back. At one point last fall, in fact, there was ample question of whether he would ever golf again. Hence, Woods has been largely AWOL and irrelevant the last four years on the PGA tour.

“But it was more than physical, yes?”

Also true. Tiger was the top-ranked golfer in the world for 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and again for 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010; his dominance was unprecedented. That dominance was then pierced by the sudden, shocking revelation that the world’s most famous golfer — the married father of two — engaged in more than a dozen extramarital affairs. He proceeded to lose millions in endorsements, publicly apologize, reveal a sex addiction, and eventually divorce his wife.

Talk about fallen from grace.

Last week we observed something similar. Here was Kobe Bryant, accepting the Academy Award for the best animated short film, seemingly sincerely moved while publicly lauded. And yet in the current #MeToo environment, it was Bryant who in 2004 publicly acknowledged that he had an adulterous sexual encounter with a 19 year woman who “did not consent.” Kobe, too, fell from grace, also losing significant corporate endorsements and public respect.

So when one falls from grace, what does it take to be relevant and accepted once again?

Is it forgetting?

Do we just allow enough time to pass so we no longer remember the cracks in the character of the adult men and women we used to cheer on?

Do we let time go by, hopefully numbing the emotion we felt when people we loved did such dastardly things? Maybe if we forget, we never have to wrestle with some of the resulting inconvenient truths in our desired, ongoing support.

Or is it, rather, forgiving?

I recognize that forgiveness is not always a popular choice. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun, and I know we avoid it sometimes because it’s the only thing we can always hold against the person who hurt or disappointed us deeply. As one who bought both #8 and #24 Laker jerseys for one of my sons, for example, I was especially disappointed in Bryant’s behavior; I was angry I then had to have a more sensitive and sad conversation with my too young adolescent.

The key to forgiveness is the profound reality that it doesn’t allow the offender to get off the hook; it allows us to get off the hook — to no longer have to hold onto the anger and bitterness that potentially take root within ‘me.’ Let’s be honest: that looks good on no one.

As for the offender, in addition to understandable consequences for his/her behavior, he/she will still have some work to do… repentance, growth, and making amends. That is his/her responsibility.

Hence, for the person who repents — and for the person who forgives — I will enthusiastically cheer. Grace and forgiveness are always worth cheering for.

Go Tiger, go… hope you do well this weekend. And more.


ethnic objectivity

UnknownKobe Bryant, perennial NBA all-star, made news for something far less athletic recently.  When asked about fellow pro players’ Twitter activism after Trayvon Martin’s death, posing in hoodies as a protest against racial profiling, Bryant offered the following, even though significant time has passed since Martin’s death:

“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American.  That argument doesn’t make any sense to me.  So we want to advance as a society and as a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American, we immediately come to his defense?  Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society?  Well, if we’ve progressed as a society, then you don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American.  You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right?  So I won’t assert myself.”

Unsurprisingly, many immediately lambasted Bryant, especially African-American commentators — proclaiming Bryant’s “disingenuous appeal for colorblindness” to suggesting the star was “promoting Rush Limbaugh’s opening monologue” to one former CNN contributor who questioned whether or not Kobe Bryant actually had “a brain.”

Let’s look at what Bryant actually said…

While acknowledging his own ethnicity, he said he cannot nor will not make a judgment solely based on ethnicity.  My sense is that Bryant called for each of us to embrace objectivity.  He called for us to be color blind.  And he called for none of us — none of us — even if we share his ethnicity — to base our opposition or support based on the color of our skin.

Bryant’s critics continued.  They called him a “cornball,” “clueless,” and a “jerk.”

His critics called his names because they disagreed with his opinion.

Thank God for Stephen A. Smith, the loquacious, outspoken ESPN host, who while he, too, shares Kobe’s ethnicity, sees the bigger picture…

“Kobe Bryant basically has the attitude that justice should be equal, no matter what, in regards to race or gender.  And that was his position.  All he was trying to say was that, ‘Excuse me.  Let’s listen to the facts first.  Let’s make sure we know everything before we jump out and judge accordingly.  You can’t sit there and take somebody’s side just because they’re an African American.  You can’t turn around and assume that people from other races are ever going to be fair to you if you’re not willing to exercise fairness yourself.  Lay back listen to the facts and then accord justice where it should be served.’ I don’t have a problem with that.  Me personally, I definitely think he was right on point with that.

… Even though the system sometimes is unjust — it sometimes is unfair — it doesn’t accord us the license to be unfair as well.  We have to make sure that if we’re shining a light on issues we’re just as fair-minded as we’re asking other people to be toward us. If we’re not willing to do that, then we don’t have a strong argument.”

No argument, friends, from any of us, is strong or wise if absent of objectivity.  We need to learn to discuss and disagree with respect, fair-mindedness, and without instant criticism and judgment.