The special things in sports we’re grateful for

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It’s so easy to take sides when something terrible happens. Especially in this 2021 world that becomes increasingly polarized by the day. On one hand we are ready to throw away any person who does wrong. Sometimes it’s despicable, sometimes it’s an unfortunate mistake, sometimes it’s sheer ignorance. It doesn’t matter the reason, it’s time to take sides and those usually line up with people’s personal beliefs. The people who share the beliefs of the person who did wrong, will defend them like their own body in the Roman Coliseum. They’ll bend and twist all the logic possible and be willing to offer Kyle Rittenhouse an internship.

Then there’s those who are far too quick to condemn. If they do not share the beliefs of the person who did wrong then off to the gulag with them. There is no room for mercy or nuance. We should hate Michael Vick forever, even though he has suffered more, and atoned publicly more for the error of his ways more than most of us will ever be required to.

For the world to actually be a better place than the charnel house that it often is, the side we all should be rushing to is the side of decency. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Treat people the way that you would want to be treated,” these aren’t simply platitudes that we feed preschoolers. These are principles that guide the way that decent people live their lives. No one has ever been “cancelled” for showing sincere compassion and empathy.

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was thrust into the middle of two situations involving people who committed great wrongs. Instead of castigating them or throwing out whataboutisms to defend them, he chose love.

When Jon Gruden’s racist, mysogonistic, and homophobic emails became public and he was forced to resign, Carr said to the media that the emails were offensive and that language will never be spoken by his own children. He also said that he loves his former coach. They’ve battled together, his coach has always had his back, and the love grew past football. It extended his coach’s family. All of that, Carr said, was going to make it hard with Gruden not being with the team.

Less than a month later, Carr’s No. 1 wide receiver, Henry Ruggs III, committed a horrific act. He was driving on a Las Vegas street, not an expressway, at 156 miles per hour and a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, and killed a woman. Ruggs hit her car so hard that it engulfed in flames.

That’s it for Ruggs as an NFL player, and as a free man for some years. Once he sobered up in that jail cell and realized that he ended a person’s life and, at least for a time, ruined his own, in the words of Carr, “He’s probably feeling a certain type of way about himself.” Carr also said that Ruggs needs to be loved right now and he is willing to do it.

Carr can be called more than a quarterback, a true captain, or even a great leader for both of these public moments. What he really has been in these moments is a role model, not just for children but maybe even more so for adults. He sorted out some complicated feelings and relationships, and chose the side of empathy. Gruden and Ruggs showed the ugliness of humanity like a slomo, HD replay of a play on Sunday that is under review. Their actions should never be defended in any way, but that doesn’t mean the people should be thrown away. The way to make a better society is for people to improve themselves after they do something wrong, not for them to simply suffer in a dark corner and the good parts of them will never be seen again. In order to get any good from these people again, they first need to be loved.

Carr has chosen love, and in the process has given us an example of what it looks like to be a decent human being. A person who instead of piling on or blindly defending an ideology, decided to care about two entirely different people. As this world spirals into cultural and environmental chaos, this is an example that we should all try to follow. — Stephen Knox

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