I almost always feel sorry for the loser, even if I am rooting for the other side...which means I felt sorry for lots of people this past week. In an average week the number of "losers" in the country can be measured in the millions. Think of all the people who play sports...and their fans. Then throw in poker losses, stock market losses, people who didn't win the lottery, tiddlywink losers, and that guy who just blew his chances to win his lover's heart. I never have trouble finding someone to feel sorry for.
But this past week I've been extra busy. There were about 25,000 competitive election races in America: federal, state, and county offices up for grabs. And those were the contests that had two or more candidates. There were perhaps another 25,000 contests in which a candidate ran unopposed. And in those contests, while there was no single losing candidate, there were far more losers, because the public didn't have a choice.
Post-election week might be a good time for the President of the United States to have us all sit down and listen while he reads a good book to us. I'm thinking of Joy Berry's children's book, Being a Bad Sport. It includes such lines as:
- People who do not win and lose graciously are bad sports.
- Bad sports are happy only when they win. When they lose, they often pout, cry, or throw tantrums.
- Bad sports sometimes lie...(and) cheat so they can win.
- Bad sports are not good winners. They act as though they are better than the people who lose.
- When bad sports win, they say and do things to make the people who lose feel bad.
- It is important to treat other people the way you want to be treated.
That last line is kind of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Do unto others..." I'm not sure what kind of sports Jesus played. Did he point his fingers to heaven when he hit a homerun? Did he spike the football when he scored a touchdown? "Take THAT devil-down-below!" Did he yell across the volleyball net, "Liar, liar, pants on fire" in order to distract the other team? And then give God all the credit in the post-game interview?
But then there is this: while we know nothing of Jesus' athletic prowess, we do know that he has long been engaged in a deadly competition with evil. Isn't that too important a contest for wasting time on being a good sport? Aren't there times when our battle with raw darkness justifies being a bad sport?
Ask most people who have a passion for politics, one side or another, and they will insist they are in a battle of moral and spiritual Armageddon. To them, being a good sport would border on blasphemy. War and politics have become arenas for "hate your enemy." There has always been hate and malice in the world, but never so institutionalized and well-marketed as in our own times.
In sports, we are not really taught to hate. We might be taught that "winning is everything." And that can lead to one becoming a bad sport. And the sports world has plenty of bad boys and bad girls...always has. But in the world of sports, the vast majority of players and fans are "good sports." In sports, if you are a "bad boy," the consequence is that no one wants to play with you...or have you on their team. But what about politics?
In almost every federal and state contest this year, 7,145 of them, bad sportsmanship was the rule, not the exception. To live in a democracy is to elect the officials most of us want. But with so few good sports, we are becoming increasingly weighed down with what we don'twant. Mr. President, you better hurry up and have us all sit down, and read to us... Ms. Berry's book. Please, please, please... --Mike