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Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

In many ways ESPN has been the death of sports for me.  At first, I loved Sports Center, as I could catch all the highlights without spending hours watching the games, but over the years it has become an endless stream of mind-numbing dialogue, staged arguments, and tired narratives.  Filling up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week raises sports talk to the ad nauseam level, and with the success of each channel comes the advent of a new one (e.g. ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded…). 

Perhaps the lamest of all dialogues are the ones surrounding the “Greatest of All Time (GOAT)”.  Inevitably, people pick their favorite player, and simply trot out the stats that support their narrative, while ignoring anything that might challenge it. 

If you’re a Michael Jordan fan, you’ll point out that he was 6 for 6 in NBA finals, and act as though he simply willed the Bulls to those championships, but you’ll leave out all the seasons that they didn’t make the finals, and most especially the two seasons spent in Washington.  Indeed, the “Last Dance” wasn’t really the last dance, it’s just the last one MJ wanted you to remember. 

You’ll argue that championships are the measuring stick, and taunt that 6 is better than 5 (Kobe) or 4 (Lebron, Tim Duncan…), but you won’t mention Robert Horry’s 7 rings, or Bill Russell’s 11 (in just 13 seasons).  If it doesn’t support your conclusion, you’ll just leave it out.

It’s not that any of these counterpoints prove that MJ isn’t the greatest of all-time, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves into believing that this is anything more than our opinion.  Attempting to gauge players from different eras, playing different roles, and with different team dynamics is for the most part, impossible.  Moreover, there is really no point in trying to make such an argument, other than the need to fill up space on a slow sports day. 

Perhaps the most damaging element of trying to elevate someone to the GOAT status is that it inevitably leads to tearing down all other potential challengers for the title.  This ultimately steals the joy of watching some of sports greatest figures, and celebrating their unique accomplishments.  You can rant that Lebron is no MJ, or that Elway was no Brady, or that Steffi Graf was no Serena Williams, or that Carl Lewis was no Usain Bolt, but that doesn’t really prove anything.  Each of these individuals were spectacular in ways that their counterparts were not.  Why not just celebrate all of them for what they were.

In a similar vein, talent competitions have created this same sort of dialogue within the artistic realm.  Whether it is singing, or dancing, or cake decorating, we endeavor to judge one person’s artful expression to be superior to another’s.  Does the greatness of Fred Astaire’s dancing somehow diminish that of Michael Jackson’s?  Does Katherine Hepburn’s body of work really need to compete with Meryl Streep’s career?  Can’t we be blown away by the extraordinary talent of both Whitney Houston and Adele?  Do we really need to declare one as the “greatest of all time”?

Finally, there is the comparable issue of BFF’s.  This is a seemingly harmless acronym used to express our deep affection for those who are closest to us, but in order to have a “best friend”, I would have to rate my friends against each other, which seems like a foolish, and destructive thing to do.  The “forever” element of the acronym can also be troublesome, as friendships are often just for a season of our lives.  I certainly have had wonderful friends, who walked with me through incredibly difficult chapters in my life, but who eventually moved on.  That doesn’t diminish the value of what their friendship has meant to me, or their impact on my life.

Ultimately, I find it ironic that a culture that supposedly places great value on the ideas of diversity and inclusion, would be so obsessed with elevating one person above all the rest.  I would rather just celebrate them all for the unique thing that they brought to the table.

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I grew up in a military family, normally living on Air Force bases with other military families. After high school, I joined the Navy, and for another decade lived/worked amongst people with differing backgrounds, diverse ethnicity, and varying belief systems.  The military made little allowance for our differences; once you donned the uniform you were expected to work together toward the greater mission.  I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this dramatically affected my understanding of community and family.  Even decades later, I still have many friends (and family) who don’t necessarily believe the things that I believe.  They grew up differently than I did, their life experience has led them to draw different conclusions than I have, and ultimately they view the world through a different lens than I do.  To me, this is not only how it’s always been, but also how it ought to be.  This doesn’t mean that we have nothing in common.  They love their families, value their communities, and hope to live in peace, just as I do.  I find my life is enriched, and my understanding is expanded, by remaining engaged with people who don’t necessarily think, act and live like I do.  Thus, I continue to seek the common ground that we all share.

 

When social media platforms like Facebook emerged, I found them to be a great way to stay connected, especially with friends and family who are literally spread all over the world. At its best, it has allowed us to remain connected in ways we couldn’t have otherwise.  No doubt, I want to celebrate their joys with them, and pray for them when they’re in a struggle, and to honor them when they’re gone.  But these days there seems to be a lot of pressure to use social media (and every other available platform) as a bully pulpit, where we exalt our preferences, ridicule those who have a differing point of view, and dare people to “Unfriend” us if they don’t like what we have to say.  People who refuse to participate in this battle of angry rhetoric are increasingly being criticized for not taking a side, accused of remaining “neutral” on the important issues of the day, and even being compared to those who stood by in Nazi Germany, doing nothing to stop the Holocaust.  As it goes with all the other points of view floating around cyberspace, they’re entitled to their opinion, and they’re also entitled to express it, but I don’t find their arguments compelling.

 

I believe that finding and cultivating the common ground that we share makes for stronger and more united communities. Building and strengthening these bonds of community is an essential first step in addressing the larger social issues we face.  Standing on opposite sides of the street, throwing rocks at each other isn’t going to achieve anything other than our eventual destruction.  I’m not sure what people think their vitriol achieves, but if posting an angry meme on social media is the extent of one’s activism, they’ve not done much.  Getting a bunch of folks, who already agreed with you, to “Like” your post doesn’t really effect change. If there is genuine oppression, it’s going to cost a lot more than some heated words to stand up to it.  If we are successful in alienating everyone who doesn’t look, think, and act like we do, we’ll have simply set the stage for civil war.  If we want to better understand the issues, we need to engage in meaningful dialogue with people of diverse viewpoints.  If we want to battle racism, we need to engage in meaningful relationships with people of other races.  If we want to battle poverty, we need to engage in the process of creating opportunities or providing aid to the underprivileged…  If we were that committed to change, we’d probably be too busy to spend so much time on Facebook.

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Lately, I’ve pondered whether the mocking, taunting and belittling of those we consider to be hateful is the height of irony, or the height of hypocrisy.  I suppose it could be both.  Either way, disparaging people who don’t share our particular point of view seems to have become our new national pastime.  So much for all that pretentious rhetoric about tolerance, diversity, unity, and taking the “high road”.

 

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