I am a girl who loves sports.
I’m actually a grown woman with an often-ridiculous addiction to sports, but who’s bringing age and the-crazy into it?
I watch the playoffs in pretty much everything; I block the weekends of golf majors on my calendar; I have been known to set my alarm clock for 1 a.m. on a Saturday night so I can watch the Australian Open Tennis men’s final LIVE.
This is face-painted me at the Australian Open a couple of years ago, where I watched 10-12 hours of tennis every day for a week in 100+ degree heat — and called it a vacation.
See what I mean?
And so this Sunday afternoon I went shopping instead of watching football. I am not a girl who shops, at all, so that’s how off-the-rail I feel. If you had told me a week ago that I’d spend the last 7 days writing about and talking about and reading about domestic violence, I’d have shot you a look. It’s fair to say I was caught off-guard —- both by the details of the week AND by my personal connection and stories. Stories I had not intended, ever, to tell.
As a kid, I loved board games. Board games are straightforward: you read the rules and follow the rules and somebody wins, somebody loses. One of the things I love most about sports are the rules. Rules make games fair. One of my favorite quotes is from the great Arthur Ashe, which I can only paraphrase here: You must be as gracious when you lose as when you win; this is the true definition of a good sport.
I hate to lose. So I struggle.
And yet, as I watched and read this week’s sports news, I kept thinking of this quote about grace and fairness. Is it fair for a 300 lb athlete to bludgeon his 120 lb girlfriend, and still play the game he loves? Is it gracious that fans showed up at games this weekend in their Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy jerseys? Is it fair that these guys will, once all of this dust has settled —- and you know it will settle, remember Michael Vick? — go on to being admired and loved and revered for their talents, for their winning, for being good sports?
Today, the Carolina Panthers decided at the last minute to bench Greg Hardy, who was convicted — not accused, but tried and convicted — in July. Here’s what happened, in part: First he flung her onto a bed, then he threw her into a bathtub. Then he tossed her onto a futon covered with a cache of firearms. An inventory of the guns revealed 10 semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Hardy asserted that the rifles were loaded. Next, Hardy ripped from her body a necklace that he had gifted her. He threw the jewelry into a toilet, and when she attempted to fish it out, he slammed the lid on her arm. He then dragged her by the hair from room to room before putting his hands around her throat.
Convicted, and yet Greg Hardy was still on the roster and receiving his $700,000+ per week salary. Where is the fairness in that? Is Greg Hardy anyone’s idea of a good sport?
And then we have Adrian Peterson. Let me get this straight: if you tell your 4 yr old child you love them before you beat them with a tree branch, it’s okay? His 4 yr old suffered cuts and bruises to areas including his back, buttocks, ankles, legs, and scrotum.
Let’s take a second and picture how very small a 4 yr old child is. And his father is a 220 lb professional athlete.
This morning I said to an almost 70 yr old woman in my family: “I’ve always known you were abused, especially in your youth, and I’m sorry I never said anything, never acknowledged it, never acknowledged you.” I feared her response, was afraid I’d poked my nose in. Afraid, until she said, “No, it’s okay. I appreciate that. I do. And here are some of the things that happened to me that made me leave the first husband and stay with the second….”
Sometimes we really just have to ask the question, right? And be willing to hear every detail.
I don’t need a video to show me what my 70 yr old female relative means when she gives me details of her abuse, of the way her first husband beat her and her baby boy. I don’t need a video of what it looked like when Hardy’s then-girlfriend was thrown onto a couch covered in firearms. I don’t need a video of Adrian Peterson beating his baby boy with a tree branch. I know what that looks like. And so do you.
I am a girl who loves sports. Good sports.
Let us not let this go.