A few weeks ago the Super Bowl happened. In case you’re not familiar with how the game went, Cam Newtown, who had been one of the most dominant players in the whole league, was not able to lead his team to victory. (Incidentally, it’s a bizarre culture we’ve created where we first worship athletes, then immediately harshly criticize them for failure, when we could never do half of what they do. But that’s for another day…) After the game, Cam gave the mandated press conference where he was to answer questions from reporters. Except he really didn’t. His disappointment over the outcome of the game made him unable or unwilling to really be emotionally present for any questions or to give any answers at all.
The criticism Cam receieved for this press conference turned out to be even more intense than the criticism he received for his play during the game. The chorus of professional and amateur writers typed endless stories about how inappropriate his demeanor was. The sense of morality was very strong–here was something clearly wrong!
Now, there was a time when something called “sportsmanship” was esteemed and practiced. Some professional athletes still seem to abide by versions of it. And we could say it was a positive thing–it was kind of a stripped down version of biblical morality which acknowledged the limited importance of sports and the greater importance of other people and realities outside of the game. It led to people being gracious in defeat, and acknowledging the skill of an opponent, even when one ended up on the losing side of things. And it does seem, from a biblical perspective, that it’s too bad to lose this, especially as we witness its alternative. It does seem to be disappearing.
Evidently, Cam ran afoul of the last vestiges of this sense of sportsmanship still hanging around in popular culture. That’s the only sense I can make out of everyone’s criticism of him. Let’s be honest–the same media outlets that push all kinds of morality-discarding material for profit were the same ones who turned around and criticized Cam for his conference. Now this is bizarre. Any number (and all kinds) of infidelities, perversions, and deceits are not to be criticized, and must even be celebrated, but failure to answer questions about a fumble, wearing your hoodie up, and sporting a mopey disposition after a long night–this is just wrong!
Cam, true to form, called everyone out on this hypocrisy. In a press conference the following day, where he had to answer questions about the other press conference (funny, right?), he said:
“The truth of the matter is, who are you to say your way is right?…That’s what I don’t understand. We’ve got all these people condemning, and saying ‘he shouldn’t have done this, that and the third.’
“What makes your way right?…
“I said it since day one: I am who I am. I know what I’m capable of and I know where I’m going. I don’t have to conform to anybody else’s wants for me to do. I’m not that guy.”
See what he did there? He used the number one “truth” our culture affirms, that there are no right or wrong ways of doing anything, and simply, logically, applied them to his press conference. And based on what the media, government, corporate America, and public schools all preach, he would be right! How can the criticism of Cam, coming from the sources it has come from, make any sense? Who are these people to criticize? Do they believe in a moral law to the universe? Does it apply to everything? Does it apply to everyone? Or does it only apply to quarterbacks and post-Super Bowl press conferences?
While we all charge headlong into the brave new world where we create meaning and morals for everything–in the moment, from scratch, according to our moods–maybe we should stop and think about some of the things we’re losing. And if we think sportsmanship and nice media moments will be the only casualties, we’re living in a fantasy.
Let Cam Newtown explain the reality to us. We in the West are in the process of losing everything–and all ability to evaluate or criticize or shame any behavior. As Christians in this cultural moment, we need to help our friends see this, and all its implications. Are we really ready to live in a world where nothing can be called wrong? And if not, if we want to hang on to some cherished bits of the former morality–by what right do we hold on to those? Who are we to say which way is right?
Only Christians hold the answer–the message that there was a man who proved his right to define the universe to us. He told us what was right. He said it was the height of folly to ignore him. And that man is coming again soon, when he will be the judge of all athletes, all actions, and all flesh.