understanding the protests; do the protestors understand?

This week we watched continued protests on the college campus. Before we address the main point of today’s post, let’s provide factual context…

As the Israel-Hamas war moves into its seventh month, encampment protests have erupted on multiple college campuses in support of Hamas, calling for schools to divest from Israeli companies and the US to sever ties with Israel. The protests began at Columbia University over two weeks ago but have since spawned up elsewhere, notably disrupting multiple graduation ceremonies. The protests initially seemed predominantly peaceful, but have become increasingly more violent. They have also been filled with antisemitic behavior. Let us thus ask some relevant questions…

First, who are the protestors?

The protestors are Palestinian supporters involving students, faculty and outside activists. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said this week that over 40% of those who participated in Columbia and City University of New York protests were not actually from the school.

Next, do the protestors understand who Hamas really is and what they actually believe in?

Hamas was designated as a foreign terrorist organization under Pres. Bill Clinton’s State Department in 1997. This means that they use violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political objectives. Their goal is to create a Palestinian state in place of Israel. They do not support a two-state solution or a permanent cease fire because they do not want Israel to exist. Hence, they do not support peace. 

They also do not support LGBT rights nor often, even their existence. They executed one of their own accomplished military commanders in recent years for reportedly having sex with another man. There are multiple reports Hamas attempted to keep this secret, as they recognize it would pierce their popularity and derail global support.

How then is wise to handle the protests?

It’s tricky, we know. And I think we are seeing leadership examples that are effective and not.

I really respect the aforementioned Mayor Adams. He has been clear and firm and articulate in calling the protests what they are. He has called “hate,” “hate,” and even in recent days aver that Columbia and other private colleges should contribute to the cost of needing the NYPD to curtail the protests; the taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for intentional vandalism. He is holding those responsible accountable.

Also solid has been University of Florida President Ben Sasse. The school made swift arrests when protests broke out in Gainesville, giving the protestors many days and multiple warnings first to cease their illegal activity. Said Sasse: 

“This is not complicated: The University of Florida is not a daycare, and we do not treat protesters like children — they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they’ll face the consequences…”

One of the more ineffective stabs at leadership comes from those who attempt to address antisemitism and Islamophobia at the same time with equal emphasis in this situation. Let’s be clear; these are not Islamophobic protests, and reports of such have been distinctly few and far between. Just like when “black lives matter” was the relevant focus, “all lives matter” wasn’t an appropriate retort; the focus was on how the black community was negatively affected. To call out antisemitism and Islamophobia is an inaccurate assessment of what is currently happening, and is therefore, most likely, an attempt at appeasement or maintaining popularity.

Friends, we will absolutely advocate for the respect of all people, and our respect is not dependent on agreement. But we will also not refrain from asking tough, insightful questions… and for calling something what it is and what it is not.

Respectfully…

AR

80 for April

Tired of the news? Don’t trust the news you actually do hear? Believe it’s biased to the point of being untruthful?

We can’t omit the bias, but we can learn lots by sorting through what people have been talking about. Because the question mark is our favorite punctuation piece — because it’s the only mark that actually invites a response — below is what people were asking in the month that was. We took the first 80 Q’s we observed; you’ll note they come from sources left, right and pretty much everywhere in between. I’ve bolded ten that heightened my curiosity…

  1. A Bipartisan House?
  2. A Turning Point for American Foreign Policy?
  3. Abortion or Inflation: Which Will Matter More in 2024?
  4. Accountability Coming for Trump at Last?
  5. After Nearly 1,400 Campus Arrests, How Will Prosecutors Handle Charges?
  6. Are Americans Really So Divided?
  7. Are Democrats Stuck With Biden?
  8. Are Iran’s Nine Lives Nearing an End?
  9. Are US politics undergoing a racial realignment?
  10. Can Biden Attract Independent Voters?
  11. Can Biden Keep the Black Vote?
  12. Can Biden Revive the Fortunes of American Workers?
  13. Can Down-Ballot Races Lift Biden to Victory in 2024?
  14. Can Political Theorists Be Trusted?
  15. Can We Fix a Culture Hostile To Raising Children?
  16. Compassion or Hatred? What’s Motivating Protesters on College Campuses?
  17. Could Trump Unlock Longer-term Republican Presidential Success?
  18. Dems Turned Colorado Blue. Can GOP Win It Back?
  19. Did Mike Johnson Just Get Religion on Ukraine?
  20. Did Trump Just Get Lucky With His NYC Juror Pool?
  21. Did the U.S. Solicitor General Mislead SCOTUS?
  22. Disorder on Border: What Were They Thinking?
  23. Do Our Leaders, ‘Experts’ & Pundits Want World War III?
  24. Does Abortion Ruling Put Florida In Play?
  25. Empathy Was Biden’s Superpower in 2020. Will It Be Again?
  26. Famine in Gaza?
  27. Hillary To Students on Gaza: Can We Talk & Not Shout?
  28. How Much Is a Dead Jew Worth?
  29. How Woke Is Too Woke?
  30. Ignore the sticker price: How have college prices really changed?
  31. Is a Biden Comeback Underway?
  32. Is Bad News for Biden ‘Rosy Retrospection’ or Just Fact?
  33. Is Biden Losing Pennsylvania?
  34. Is College Still Worth It?
  35. Is Special Counsel Jack Smith An Emperor Who Wears No Clothes?
  36. Is the U.S. Government Ready for Another January 6?
  37. Is Trump Nostalgia Enough?
  38. Is Trump Really Leading in Battleground Pennsylvania?
  39. Is Trump Really Making Big Gains With Black and Latino Voters?
  40. Question for a Reparations Advocate: What Is Enough?
  41. Should Justice Sotomayor Retire?
  42. Some Colleges Will Soon Charge $100,000 a Year. How Did This Happen?
  43. Should Kamala Harris step aside as Joe Biden’s running mate?
  44. The Intifada Comes to America. Now What?
  45. The Return of Stagflation?
  46. Top companies are on students’ divest list. But does it really work?
  47. Trump, Biden ‘Darn Near Even’. Where Will the Race Go? 
  48. Trump Denies Elections, But Biden’s the Threat to Democracy?
  49. Voters don’t like Biden’s economy — but why?
  50. War By Affirmative Action?
  51. What academic penalties could the 44 arrested student protesters face?
  52. What Are Americans’ Top Foreign Policy Priorities?
  53. What Are the Stakes of ‘Civil War,’ Really?
  54. What Is Hamas Thinking Now?
  55. What Is RFK Jr.’s Pitch to Voters?
  56. What Should Be Done About the Gender Pay Gap in Sports?
  57. What Will Netanyahu Do Now?
  58. What Would Lincoln Do?
  59. What’s Behind Campus Protesters’ Calls For ‘Divestment’ From Israel?
  60. What’s Next After the Ukraine Mistake?
  61. What’s next for Caitlin Clark?
  62. When do college protests become criminal?
  63. When Is Racial Stereotyping Acceptable?
  64. Who are Trump’s potential VP picks?
  65. Who is Caitlin Clark’s Boyfriend?
  66. Who Is Running for President in 2024?
  67. Who’s on Trial, a Former President or a Mob Boss?
  68. Why Are Voters Worried About Biden’s Age?
  69. Why Did Cars Get So Expensive?
  70. Why Does America Have Religious Liberty?
  71. Why Have Abortions Risen in the US?
  72. Why Is America Vastly Expanding Its Surveillance Complex?
  73. Why Is Trump Barred From Discussing Cohen & Daniels?
  74. Will Biden Let Israel Finish Off Hamas?
  75. Will Black Voters Back GOP?
  76. Will Doing ‘the Right Thing’ Cost Speaker Johnson?
  77. Will Gen-Z Cancel America?
  78. Will the Gaza War Decide the 2024 Race?
  79. Will Prosecutors Charge Pro-Palestinian College Protestors?
  80. Will There Be a Presidential Debate This Fall?

Just asking questions. But allow me one more, maybe my favorite: “Who said it: Biden, Trump or someone from ‘The Bachelor’?”

(My apologies… that was from March…) 🙂

Respectfully…

AR

[Intramuralist note: sources include but are not limited to ABC News, AMAC, The American Conservative, American Greatness, American Reformer, The Atlantic, Boston Globe, Brookings Institution, CBS News, CNN, DC Examiner, Epoch Times, The Federalist, Financial Times, Guardian, The Hill, Huff Post, The Liberal Patriot, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, New York Magazine, New York Sun, New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, People, NPR, Pew Research Center, Real Clear Politics, Slate, Substack, Tablet Magazine, Tipp Insights, UnHerd, The Unknowns, USA Today, US News & World Report, Wall Street Journal, Washington Free Beacon, Yale News, and 538.]

the college campus & the class of 2020/2024

Four years ago, it was a little bit like easing the bandage off a painful, measly bit at a time. First there’s this mysterious illness. There are rumors of a Chinese origin, but something strange soon surges in Europe. It was January of 2020.

Two months later there’s a cruise ship docked outside of San Francisco. Multiple passengers display similar symptoms of the illness. The Bay Area then becomes the first in the U.S. to announce “shelter-in-place” orders. Cases grow. Within days, the world would seemingly shut down.

It’s interesting to talk to people about what Covid was like for them. There are countless stories of hard. Just writing that once more makes me pause, sobered not just by the millions who died across the planet, but also by the plethora of all we lost. It was a lot…

… relationships… human touch… dreams, ambitions… proper, compassionate end-of-life care… celebrations… family gatherings… systems… education rhythms… trust… and so much more…

Stories of loss are rampant. There is great variety within them, too.

In our family one of the things we most lost was the pomp and circumstance of graduation — for all three of my sons. In one way or another each of my sons had their graduation festivities significantly impacted; for two of them it was totally taken away.

All across the globe we had to learn how to take that figurative next step forward — even if there was no pomp nor circumstance. But I think for me — and remember, this is both different and valid for each of us — what was hardest was to witness my youngest having the celebration completely cancelled. As a young man with special, special needs, he does very well in life; he is incredibly gifted in a unique set of ways. But what was hard for this proud parent is that cognitively, Josh would never know the depth of what he missed.

I don’t say that with any bitterness, angst nor any semblance of victim speak. It’s what we had to do, and no doubt the community education leaders made the decision they thought wisest and best. We may not like every decision others make, but that doesn’t immediately equate us with a victim. The bottom line was it was a hard thing to walk through, a hard thing we had to accept.

Finally, that high school crowd that had 2020 canceled is about to gleefully toss those mortarboards in the air, let their tassels fly, and receive their college diploma. Congrats, class of 2024! So well deserved. You have waited a long time!

Except…

At the University of Southern California, this week they announced the cancellation of their “main stage” graduation ceremony. The college seniors who were high school seniors in 2020 just had their celebration scrubbed again. Why?

Because the campus has been inundated with anti-Israel protests. The administration is cancelling graduation for the safety and security of the students and parents who planned to attend.

So let’s get this straight… as the conflict continues overseas between Israel and the longtime identified terrorist group of Hamas — a conflict that intensified on October 7th when Hamas attacked Israel, killing thousands and kidnapping hundreds, and Israel forcefully responded — students and demonstrators have dug in on college campuses across the country in recent weeks, demanding schools cut any financial ties with or investments perceived to support Israel. In addition to their demands for divestment, there are also scores of reports across the country of antisemitic behavior. There is also increased suspicion as to who else has infiltrated this process, as noted, for example, by police on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston. They arrested more than 100 protestors last week. According to the Associated Press, the demonstrators booed police, taunted the officers, and utilized many antisemitic slurs, including “kill the Jews.” Friends, this is awful. This is hateful. 

As New York City Mayor Eric Adams said this week in response: “First, I want to say that I know what protest is about. I participated in protests throughout my life, particularly during the South African calling for the dismantling of apartheid. That is one of the fundamental rights we hold dear as Americans, the right to protest. What we are seeing playing out on many of our college campuses, and particularly Columbia University, is hate.”

Northeastern, Columbia and more… and now USC, who is shutting down graduation. More may soon follow. 

As noted, the Intramuralist indeed believes in the peaceful, nonviolent protest. But what we don’t believe in is the protest which gives no care to whom their current disruption hurts. To give no care, with all due respect, is to be either ignorant or selfish… regardless of what the protest represents.

Respectfully…

AR

a good protest?

There’s nothing quite like a good protest. The zillion dollar question is what makes a protest good. Better yet, what’s the definition of “good”?

A good protest means the reasoning is clear, the demands are apposite, and the approach is nonviolent.

  • Clear reasoning means the cause is just and evidence supports any claim of injustice or wrongdoing.
  • Apposite demands mean what the protestors are asking for in regard to social or political change is apt in the circumstances that exist.
  • And a nonviolent approach means the method is a peaceful pursuit, seeking understanding, recognizing as The King Center notes, that the aim is “to defeat injustice or evil, not people.”

Monday evening was the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. And yet, note the Tuesday headlines, this one from AP, “Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses following mass arrests at Columbia.” There are protests across the country. They are largely anti-semitic. Jewish students were asked to leave Columbia University. Harvard closed their infamous Yard. A Jewish journalist at Yale was stabbed in the eye.

The activity begs the question: where’s the line between free expression and a safe and inclusive campus?

It’s not hard, friends; it’s the final piece of the good protest triad. It means the protest embraces a nonviolent approach.

According to The King Center, “Dr. King often said, he got his inspiration from Jesus Christ and his techniques from Mohandas K. Gandhi.” There exist six fundamental tenets of his nonviolent philosophy:

  1. Nonviolence Is a Way of Life for Courageous People.
  2. Nonviolence Seeks to Win Friendship and Understanding.
  3. (As stated above…) Nonviolence Seeks to Defeat Injustice, or Evil, Not People.
  4. Nonviolence Holds That Unearned, Voluntary Suffering for a Just Cause Can Educate and Transform People and Societies.
  5. Nonviolence Chooses Love Instead of Hate. And…
  6. Nonviolence Believes That the Universe Is on the Side of Justice.

I’m sorry to see the current hurt on the college campus. I’m sorrier still to see the hate.

Gleaning from the wisdom expressed above…

  1. It takes zero courage to be violent.
  2. When violent, one could care less if another really understands — and even less about any semblance of friendship.
  3. How sad it is to see the enmity aimed at a specific people group. These protestors are being awful toward Jewish people.
  4. They clearly haven’t read Dale Carnegie’s classic, “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” as what they are doing is not an effective way to transform people or society.
  5. Violence chooses hate instead of love.
  6. Violence creates more injustice. Injustice to address perceived injustice changes few hearts and minds. It makes fewer still want to be like those who hold said beliefs.

Let us thus be frank and clear about what’s really happening. These protestors are not simply “pro-Palestine” demonstrators. As highly-respected journalist Bari Weiss writes, they are people “openly celebrating” the terrorist group, Hamas, and also, “physically intimidating identifiably Jewish students.” Says Weiss:

“For a second, imagine that black students at Columbia were taunted: Go back to Africa. Or imagine that a gay student was surrounded by homophobic protesters and hit with a stick at Yale University. Or imagine if a campus imam told Muslim students that they ought to head home for Ramadan because campus public safety could not guarantee their security. There would be relentless fury from our media and condemnation from our politicians… This weekend at Columbia and Yale, student demonstrators did all of the above—only it was directed at Jews.”

Bottom line: these protests are clearly not good.

They are concerning and contemptible, too.

Respectfully…

AR

Caitlin & the gender pay gap

Amazing. Audacious. Awesome. Badass. Confident. Dominant. Elite. Explosive. Extraordinary. Fiery. Focused. Fun. Generational talent. Grounded. Historical. Humble. Impressive. Legendary. Mesmerizing. Must watch. Passionate. Popular. Powerful. Ready. Rock star. Smart. Transcendent. Tremendous. Unselfish. Wow.

And so is a simple splattering of the many words used to describe women’s basketball’s newest, biggest star, Caitlin Clark.

Clark leaves college as the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer. Male or female. This past week she was the first pick in the 2024 WNBA draft. With a shooting range that is oft jaw-droppingly successful, Clark has captured the country’s attention. People are paying exponentially more attention to women’s basketball, which South Carolina coach Dawn Staley — one of the best in the business — says, “Caitlin Clark is the sole reason why viewership has shot through the roof for our game — the sole reason.” The public is noticing.

In their newfound attention, they have noticed far more than Clark’s fantabulous flair. One aspect that created quite a bit of commentary in the week that was, was the pay disparity between the male and female professional basketball leagues. Take note:

  • The average four-year salary for the top draft picks for the NBA is $36.5 million (according to Spotrac). The average WNBA four-year salary for its top 2024 draft picks is $327,119. 
  • Caitlin Clark, absent endorsements (which will indeed be sizable), will make $76,535 this summer. Comparatively, the NBA’s top pick, Victor Wembanyama, had a base salary of more than $12 million.

As the public noticed the disparity, a plentitude expressed their outrage, including whoever mans Pres. Biden’s X/Twitter account, saying “even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share.”

I had to chuckle. The Intramuralist has been a WNBA fan since its inception 28 years ago (go Fever!). The pay gap has always been present. In fact, roughly half the league’s 144 players supplement their income by playing overseas the rest of the year. Perceiving unfairness takes minimal effort.

So let’s make sure we’re comparing apples to apples, an always wise act when expressing emotion. A few facts that aid in providing context:

  • The WNBA plays 40 regular season games. The NBA plays 82.
  • The average WNBA game attendance last season was 6,615 fans. The average NBA attendance was 18,324.
  • WNBA television viewership was up last year, averaging 505,000 viewers per regular season game. Last year’s NBA numbers were over 1.62 million.
  • The WNBA generates $60 million in revenue. The NBA brings in $10 billion.
  • The WNBA is subsidized by the NBA, which provides the women’s league over $15 million annually.

Friends, the WNBA is not profitable.

The NBA subsidizes the WNBA because the revenue gained via WNBA ticket sales, merch and broadcasting isn’t enough to independently sustain league operations. Their audience is significantly smaller; their fandom is smaller. In other words, the pay gap is based not on emotion but on economics. 

Some have suggested the female players just want the same percentage of revenue as NBA’ers receive, who net near 50%. The hurdle in that logic is that revenue must be gauged against profit, and if an organization isn’t profitable, it would be imprudent to apply the same revenue sharing strategies.

As said, the Intramuralist is a fan. And indeed, I am especially excited to see Caitlin Clark on the hardwood in Indiana this summer. I am also excited to see how her talents and resulting popularity transcend enthusiasm for women’s basketball. 

Magic, Bird and Michael. Kobe and Curry. And more. Each expanded the NBA audience. The bigger the audience, the larger the revenue. The larger the revenue, the more the profit potential. The more the profit, the bigger the players’ payout. The WNBA is not profitable. Yet.

My hope is as Caitlin Clark’s professional career takes shape — similar to what we witnessed in her final year of college — the audience increases, the profits are abundant, and women are paid more comparably to the men. That makes economic sense.

Respectfully…

AR

an honest question

The scenarios…

A little less than a week ago, Iran attacked Israel. Iran said that in the weeks prior, Israel hit their consulate in Damascus, Syria. Seven military officials were killed. Note that Israel neither confirmed nor denied responsibility. Iran retaliated by sending over 300 missiles and drones into the Holy Land.

A little more than 6 months ago, the foreign terrorist organization Hamas assaulted Israel via land, air and sea, resulting in the death of more than 1,200 people, primarily Israeli citizens. Hamas also took more than 240 people hostage, half of whom are estimated to still be in captivity. Hamas said they were retaliating against Israel for their continued occupation, blockade of the Gaza Strip, violence against Palestinians and more.

Allow us a brief pause for definition purposes…

re·tal·i·a·tion | rəˌtalēˈāSH(ə)n | – noun

re·tal·i·ate | rəˈtalēˌāt | – verb

: to return like for like

especially : to get revenge

Notice, no less, how it’s not really “like for like.” Israel arguably kills 7. Iran justifies attempting to kill far more. Wonder how high the next numbers will go, for as we speak, there is little doubt that Israel is contemplating their next move.

So how does this end?

Or better yet…

Who stops first?

I think that’s one of the things that saddens me in a society that seemingly moves increasingly further from Judeo-Christian values. We continually justify retaliation. And we don’t really mean “retaliating.” We mean “making them pay.”

It’s not just in perceived acts of war. We see it in any oppositional arena. Tit for tat isn’t good enough. It’s got to be bigger. And more.

If our opponent is violent, we will be vicious.

If our opponent exaggerates or lies, we can lie even better.

And if they cheat, you bet we can cheat in more devious, slyer ways!

We justify a whole heck of a lot of foolish behavior.

A few years ago I read a fascinating piece from a guest author at West Point, who was a Lieutenant Colonel and expounding upon what he termed “the rhetoric of retaliation.” He spoke of what justifies (and doesn’t) the use of our nation’s military strength against enemies abroad. It was an insightful piece, acknowledging that the rhetoric of retaliation is a dangerous game to play.

One of his fundamental points is that our justification is “never totally free of bias, ambiguity, flawed premises, or unprovable assumptions.”

So let’s step outside those acts of war once more. Let’s step into other perceived oppositional arenas, forums where we feel there’s an “us” and a “them”… You’re either for me or against me… those others stand in my way… only one of us can be right and I’m %$&*#!! sure it’s me!

What bias has entered in?

What flawed premises?

What assumptions have I made that are unprovable?

… and what do I not know because retaliation has been my primary focus?

It’s an honest question.

Respectfully…

AR

what’s secondary to support

Today was one of those days when I was prepared to hit “post” on today’s blog selection, that I just couldn’t. Something bigger, something more significant was ongoing.

Don’t get me wrong. We have lots to talk about on all sorts of topics, but today my strong sense is we would benefit from a brief, important pivot.

Last night Iran attacked Israel.

The specific onslaught is now over; however, as we all know from a war games mentality, there remains the sobering, quiet question of who stops first.

What does retaliation look like?

Is it bigger?

Is it more?

Israel reported that Iran had launched 170 drones — more than 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles — in their direction.

Bigger and more is alarming indeed.

Hence, today is a day when the rest of the world needs to come together. But the problem is we aren’t good at that.

Way too many of us only root for part of our country. We find enormous fault in the parties and candidates we feel we lesser align with. And because we find such evil and error in them, we not only don’t support them, we root against them. We ensure they have no perceived personal wins so that no more support for them materializes. 

All one has to do is look at our collective behavior directed toward the two most recent presidents. Most are collectively awful to at least one of them. Sorry, friends… it is my clear conclusion — and this is a perspective shared by what I believe to be a muted but massive majority — that there are unique, but serious weaknesses and liabilities held by both Presidents Biden and Trump.

But lest we digress, here’s my point.

Today, praying the regional tensions can be diffused — and — the tension can be restricted to regional, Pres. Biden is calling a meeting of the Group of Seven advanced democracies “to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack.”

We need Pres. Biden to lead well today… and tomorrow… regardless of how we ideologically or even emotionally align.

Lead well, Mr. President. You have my support.

My opinions and preferences are secondary to what you need to do.

Respectfully…

AR 

learning that transcends the sports world

So since it’s one of my all-time favorite topics, allow me a bit more rumination… but also, as certainly almost always, allow us to apply the learning to far more than any sport, game or event of potentially perceived less significant meaning.

As the Purdue men’s basketball team walked off the court the other evening, showered by confetti intended to honor someone other than them, March’s madness came to an end at least in college basketball. Congrats to UConn’s Huskies, the dominant victor in 2024.

In an incredible season of their own, my esteemed alma mater came in second. Here’s what we learned, indeed transcending the sports world…

First, success comes in all sorts of packages. Sometimes I think we miss out on the superfluity of success in both self and others because we’ve too narrowed the definition of what success is and what it is not. Too often we’ve crafted a discernment barometer that measures outcome and accomplishment based on how we compare to someone else. And because we are not someone else, we are either lesser or more. I think our measurement of success is way too finite. 

Purdue did not win it all in 2024. But suffice it to say, of the other 350 schools that are full members of Division I basketball conferences, 349 of them wish they were in Purdue’s shoes today. What a great, fantastic, successful year. Success is not limited to a few.

Look, too, on the women’s side, which saw South Carolina again cut down the nets. Caitlin Clark’s Iowa, like Purdue, was the runner up. But Clark ends her season and college career not only as the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer, but also as one who has generated unparalleled contemporary interest in women’s basketball. That, even as a runner up, is unquestionably successful.

The stories are more. Some with noted, lesser media attention. Successful nonetheless.

Second, to be concise, quoting one of the more iconic poets of our time (thank you, Taylor),  “The players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” It is fascinating to me the plethora of people who create copious cause to loathe a player on the court. There’s just something about them we don’t like.

Something they’ve said… a way they reacted… maybe just the way they play. We don’t like it. It — they — are annoying. Hence we justify the hate. Let me just say this… For the far majority of athletes, and yes, I mean the far majority, we have very little proximity. We have incredibly limited perspective. And we are basing our self-crafted hatred on an incredibly small sample size.

I get not wanting someone to do well — especially if they’re on the other team — but hatred of a player typically says more about a lack of discernment in those who feel so emboldened to judge freely.

(For the record, while I am unaware of any current abhorrence, let me extend my sincerest apologies for previous behavior in my youth directed toward Indiana University, the Dukies, and any and all teams associated with Tom Brady. Yes, sorry… I’m wiser now.)

Third and lastly, no less, there is one more key learning from my beloved Boilermakers failure to win the coveted NCAA crown. Yes, that’s a tad on the dramatic side…

But it’s true. We failed. We did not achieve our ultimate goal. We were not the featured stars in the annual “One Shining Moment.” With the champagne chilling in anticipation of a more favorable end result, to say me and my family were disappointed is indeed a significant understatement. I was sad that we did not win.

But…

Just because I feel one emotion strongly doesn’t negate my ability to feel another emotion, potentially even more. Wow… I wish we would have won on Monday night! But… know what I feel even more deeply today? 

A deep, permeating sense of gratitude for a group of young men who played their hearts out, were respectful to those around them, and gave me more to celebrate in college basketball than ever before in my lifetime. That, my friends, is incredibly joyful. And nothing in the above or in the actual outcome changes how I feel.

There’s always so much to learn…

Far beyond the sports world.

Respectfully…

AR

harder to hate them

The following is the best thing I read last month. It’s an op-ed by the “sane, hilarious voice” of Ben Kawaller, an L.A.-based writer and Free Press contributor who believes in good-faith debate and the importance of finding consensus in our polarized times. He is on a mission to understand our country’s division. 

He is wise. He is funny. Here is his mid-March contribution, entitled, “It’s Harder to Hate the Other Side When You Come Face to Face”:

* * * * *

I recently went to Mardi Gras and spent a couple days committing the ultimate faux pas: talking politics at a party. Knowing that in vino veritas—or at least, in vino ludicrum (thank you, Google Translate)—my plan was to ask people, in their inebriation, what they would change about America if they were in charge. I figured these interrogations would yield some insights into the collective psyche of a polarized nation.

The primary insight: what polarized nation? Polarized suggests a clustering around the extremes—and while I spoke to a few enthusiastically left- and right-wing partygoers, they were at least matched by people describing themselves as moderate, independent, or completely disengaged. And many of the partisans were lukewarm. One black gay guy described himself as ‘liberal. . . ish.’ When I guessed that one twentysomething boatyard worker from Maine leaned conservative he said, ‘Meh. Sure.’ One elderly black woman who loved Obama and JFK resisted the label liberal entirely, as did two local high school seniors, though they rejected the word conservative as well (‘I feel like that’s just so aggressive.’). When I asked another woman if she was conservative, she was stunned (though her reflexes seemed generally dulled). ‘I’m gay!’ she told me. Did that mean she was a liberal? “I don’t know,” she slurred, then added, ‘Your camerawoman’s kinda hot.’ This was hardly a population seething with pre–civil war rage. 

Perhaps that’s no shocker—this was a bacchanal, not a constitutional convention—but you would think that if we were on the brink of a ‘national divorce,’ at least someone would have said something like, ‘The problem is liberals,’ or ‘Everything would be great without Republicans.’ In fact, the overwhelming response to ‘How do we fix America?’ was a plea for greater kindness and less division. 

It was gratifying, as someone generally critical of the left’s culture wars, to see my own opinions so gloriously reflected by these people on the street. For instance, when I asked six self-identified liberals what the left gets wrong, two interviewees (both of them black) specifically cited ‘racism’ and ‘race-baiting.’ It was quite something, I thought, that in 2024 any African American should feel the need to remind his fellow liberals that ‘We’re all human.’

Other critiques were similar. ‘We can be sanctimonious,’ one liberal-leaning voter told me. Another leftist lamented the inability to ‘relate to each other as individuals.’ Another cited ‘cancel culture,’ suggesting that the left is too ‘inclusive’ of ‘over-thinkers.’ I would call them jerks. 

I got less self-critique from the right, but they’ve always been savvier at this kind of thing. If it’s self-flagellation you’re after, nothing beats Democrats.

Was I conducting a rigorous piece of political science? No, I was shooting the breeze with drunk people. But more serious adults have researched the psychology of our electorate, and their findings echo my own suspicions: that most Americans make up an ‘exhausted majority‘ whose views aren’t represented either by the orthodox left or the far right. The amplification of those extremes—and, I would argue, a craven kowtowing among the political right and the cultural left to each group’s most radical elements—gives an impression of a nation more ‘polarized’ than it actually is. 

My trip to New Orleans was the first in a series of stops I’ll be making around the country over 2024 to understand how people’s political identities (or lack thereof) are affected by this year’s face-off between two deeply unpopular heads of two increasingly unpopular parties. I hope to find out what real Americans actually think. And, as I have always thought of myself as a healer of nations, I hope to help bridge some of our supposed divides.

Or at least not make things any worse.

* * * * *

Ben will be making regular reports across the country for the Free Press this year. Looks like it will be wise to tune in.

Respectfully…

AR

sitting in it

What do we do with the bad stuff?

How do we handle the hard?

Allow me to slightly alter a recent response by an influential leader, with a live mic in front of him at a very public moment in time…

You have to sit in it. You have to take it. Sometimes when you sit in it, and you’re honest with yourselves and you take it, some great things can happen.

Let’s briefly examine the included components…

You have to sit in it… meaning you have to acknowledge reality. 

You have to take it… meaning you have to let yourself feel it; it doesn’t do any good nor is it healthy or effective to numb the pain.

And you have to be honest… meaning don’t paint a different story, don’t shift the blame onto someone else, and don’t play any sort of victim. You have to deal with it.

If you do that, some great things can happen.

The other simultaneous truth is that sitting in past hurt doesn’t preclude experiencing present joy.

Hence, we come to one of my favorite topics. And while some may not share the zeal nor extent of the specific fandom, it’s indeed true that there are so many places where the realities of life and the nature of sports mirror one another. It’s as if God set this world up to give us all sorts of creative ways to learn about ourselves, in one arena after another.

The above altered quote comes from none other than Matt Painter, head men’s basketball coach at Purdue. Noting the lack of universally shared zeal, allow me to quickly provide a bit of a Cliff Notes context…

Purdue has been very good for very many years. In fact, in the last 44 years, they’ve won precisely 958 games, 11 regular season conference titles, 2 league tournaments and have had only 5 losing seasons. Suffice it to say, they’ve been consistently great. In the regular season only. They haven’t been to the Final Four since 1980. They’ve faced multiple uncanny, untimely injuries, season-ending heartbreaks and losses to less prominent, double digit seeds… with last year, for the Purdue fan, being the dreaded worst. 

Believed to be a serious championship contender, they did the unthinkable, in a circumstance that had occurred only one time prior in the tournament. As a top 1-seed, they lost to a bottom 16-seed, to a team that barely made the tournament. In addition to rare and unthinkable, it was painful and hard.

So Coach had to lead these impressionable 18-22 year old men to face their hard. To “sit in it,” if you will. To sit in adversity. It happens to each of us, all of us, in far more than in any so-called game. The wisest in life learn to navigate the hard in a healthy way.

What a lesson. And what a lesson that transcends any sport.

On Sunday the Purdue men’s basketball team won their 33rd game of the season and punched their ticket to the 2024 NCAA Final Four, the first time since 1980.

The players, former players, alumni and fans experienced almost unspeakable, tremendous glee. The Atlantic called it “a cathartic win 44 years in the making.” Indeed. Wide support from college coaches across the country has been pouring in, for both Purdue and Painter, believing the latter is a great coach and an even better person, a humble man who does things the “right way”… Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, former Villanova coach Jay Wright. Tweeted, too, by longtime CBS analyst Seth Davis after Sunday’s win: “Could not be happier for Boiler Nation. Some of the most passionate, loyal and long suffering fans in all of sports. Your long wait is OVER…”

Don’t let me act as if everyone’s rooting for Purdue. Fans have teams they like — teams they don’t. That’s ok.

But the bigger lesson remains true. If we sit in the hard and deal with it in an honest, healthy way, some great things can happen… no matter what arena we play in.

Respectfully…

AR