One Team - One Country : When a President embraced a controversial sport


Every now and then, Sports and ESPN actually have something worth sharing.

The documentary, The 16th Man, is perhaps one of the greatest short films about race, love, reconciliation, and humility that I've ever seen. 

There could be no democracy without peace. No liberation without reconciliation (via).

I understand that there are many differences that break the parallel between Nelson Mandela's story and President Trump's current narrative, and I get that to compare the two is unfair, for many reasons, but the climate is pretty close. Or, at least, it could easily become so.

But where I ache to have a president like Mandela is this: Mandela loved his enemies as much as his friends. Instead of creating division and instilling fear, he calmed and soothed tension, even inviting those who hated him to be some of his trusted advisors - much like another great President. Mandela, through grace and patience,  prevented a war. He didn't instigate them. Because he understood that his role, his power, was to be used as a tool to serve, unite clashing people groups, and embrace an entire country - not just those with whom he agreed. 

After spending 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, president of the very people who imprisoned him, believed more in the power of love and compassion and forgiveness than he did in the guns.

So, when it came to sport and the debated Springbok, Nelson Mandela embraced it, believing it had the power to change the world. 

"In a country torn apart by racism, the game of rugby was a symbol of violent division. Yet, one man say it as a path for peace, when all roads seemed to lead to civil war."

The Springbok, the sport of rugby, was a symbol of their country, so Mandela embraced it, and the men who played it, uniting 43 million South Africans. 

And the people chanted their president's name, rejoicing, as one.

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-N- Stuff  :  Presidents  :  On Power



Power of Sport : Next Best Play

Sports today have become too much. Instead of teaching character and team work and all the things that would inspire Nelson Mandela to say, "Sport has the power to change the world," it has allowed entitlement, avenues for intense and devistating selfishness, and a skewed perspective of why we wake up in the morning. Sport has create monsters and set demons free

But it can, if we see beyond the rings, the celebrity statues, and free agency turmoil, still change the world; it can create men and women of character, and it can teach us how to live.

If we look for it.

Some background to this play is appropriate, I think, because this isn't a midseason possible throw away game. This is a do-or-die Game 7 playoff game. This is early 90's Bulls vs Knicks. This is Defending Champs vs Wanna Be Champs. For these players, this is life.

But in these 20 seconds, for us, it is so much more than a game - it can define and teach us about Life.

On Preparation:

Once Jordan catches the ball, his thousands of hours in the gym, practicing, kick in and he goes on auto-pilot. He doesn't think about what to do or where to go or how to play, he just plays, and finds success.

But how Jordan responds to his success is crucial.

On Celebrating:

Jordan has just split the defense, against one of the best defensive teams of that year, and made a pretty difficult layup. Job well done, right? Even the announcer is excited.

But Jordan doesn't siimply turn and jog bag, basking in a "that was awesome" mindset. He doesn't take the next few seconds off or "put his feet up," he immediately gets back to work. Watch it again, he IMMEDIATELY turns and runs back, ready for the Next Best Play.

And then he makes it. He makes on over-the-shoulder steal. 

Then he stumbles.

On Failure:

The ball is stolen and quickly headed in the other direction for a clear and easy layup. But Jordan doesn't sulk, complain to the ref that he was fouled, or watch from mid-court, content with "I did my best." He takes off, chasing down McDaniel and the Next Best Play.

And then he makes it. 

On Life: 

Nothing comes easy, or free. We have to put in the time, the effort, and the work. Everyday.

In our friendships, marriages, jobs, and Life. 

When things are going well, pumping our fists or throwing celebrations can get us off track, or left behind, while the other team is scoring on the end. This is when our marriages relationships begin to crumble, because we've stopped working, stopped pursuing the Next Best Play. 

And when we most fail, as we most suredly will, sulking or pointing fingers won't save us. But it will delay us, set us back, and get us ever closer to losing "the game" - whatever that might be.


This truth may be obvious and easy to grasp, but it is difficult to follow, because sometimes, it just doesn't seem true. Sometimes, after hours and hours of work and effort, the victory, whether great or small, doesn't come. Because we don't get the ball. Or worse, because we never leave the bench. Sometimes, it seems, our lot in life might be to work just as hard - or even more so - than the other guy, but never play, just support and encourage and slide further down the bench as others come off the court.

I know I feel this way often. And when I do, it can be really hard to keep practicing, to keep hoping I might one day be called upon, and to support the stars - especially when they're jerks, like Jordan.

But pouting, pointing fingers, or complaining for sure doesn't get me on the court. The Next Best Play does. Or at least, it increases the chances.

So lace up the shoes and head to the gym, ready for the Next Best Play.


For more on . . .

Purpose of Sport  :  -N- Stuff