A Message for You

LeBron James, Jerry Sandusky, and things that matter

by REV. ROBERT ECKERT
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

I was a fan of LeBron James when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I like to root for underdogs, and the Cavs—until James arrived—had been as unlikely title contenders as the NBA has ever known. Even if it would have come at the expense of the Pistons, I would have been happy to see him carry his team to a championship. Then came “The Decision” and I’ve hated LeBron James ever since.

Yup, I said “hate.” I know it’s a strong word, but that’s the beauty of professional sports in America. We can love and hate whomever we want for whatever reason we want; it’s totally arbitrary. So naturally I was disappointed when the Miami Heat won the NBA championship back on June 21 and dreaded the hoopla that began as soon as LeBron had his ring. But the spotlight was soon pointed elsewhere.

On June 22, Jerry Sandusky, Penn State University football defensive coordinator, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. “THAT will get LeBron James off the front page,” I thought. “If he had to win, at least he won’t get to bask in the afterglow.” What!? Was that really the first thing that came to my mind upon hearing the next painful chapter in a devastating tragedy that will have an impact on its victims, its perpetrator, their families and other personal and professional friends and acquaintances for years to come!?

I’m embarrassed that I’ve allowed the hype of our national obsession with sports to blur my vision of what’s silly and what’s significant. I’m saddened to realize that I’ve allowed the over-saturation of lurid stories that bombard us daily to anesthetize me to the real pain that lies behind such stories.

The unexpected death of a member of our church three days after the Sandusky verdict helped snap me back to what really matters. But that shouldn’t have been necessary.

In Hebrew scripture, the prophet Ezekiel attributes to God this intention for the people of God’s creation: “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” How is it that any of us can hold onto hard hearts when God, by grace, desires so much to give us hearts of tenderness and compassion?

Here’s my commitment for this day. I invite you to join me. Today I’ll remember that games are only games. Today I won’t wait for scandal to erupt before protecting children. Today I’ll build on my relationships with people close to me and not take them for granted. Today, loving my neighbor as myself will be more important to me than headlines.

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