Football for Ken, in particular the Super Bowl, was the Hail Mary of all the sporting events he loved. Or, as he liked to call it, the “Hal Murray!” So many stories throughout the book “Hello My Name is Ken”, relate to football. Whether it was being played in our backyard, how he helped his high school football team, or how Monday nights were reserved for family time when the popcorn flowed freely and we cheered or grumbled about each play. With Super Bowl 52 approaching I can’t help but think once again about Ken and the lessons he taught me so well about sportsmanship in sport as well as in life. Definition of Sportsmanship: “conduct (such as fairness, respect for one’s opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport”(from the Merriam-Webster dictionary)
Our society uses sport so often as a lesson for building camaraderie, facing adversity and overcoming challenges. You see what happens when someone isn’t a team player on the field, in the board room or workplace, as well as in our families and communities. They are usually left out or left behind. Then there are those who try to get something for nothing, or at the expense of another and are in turn vilified. Others who are cunning or try to play unfairly are always the loser in the end. If they haven’t lost yet its simply because the game isn’t over. You see it in main stream movies and referenced in the speeches of leaders, about teamwork, how we are stronger together, banding as one for a purpose or cause. But, what I know to be true more today then I ever did before is, there is always another side. Even for those we turn away from because they aren’t on the same ‘team’ or perhaps you have been the brunt of their ill doing or cheating ways, they too come from a place that we can learn from. As simple as it is when one team loses and another team wins doesn’t give anyone permission to dehumanize the other as less then or not worthy of being human. We as a society take this to extreme more often than not these days and the result is a world left hurting. When you point a finger at someone else there are three fingers point back. When you judge others, it only proves that you are someone who needs to judge.
As Ken would watch his favorite team on Super Bowl Sunday make that last ditch effort to win by throwing the “Hal Murray”, we could feel the suspense as the ball would float in the air for what seemed like hours before landing in the hands of one person. A 50 /50 chance that the game, like many life events well played, will end with a winner and a loser in that moment. Nothing more, nothing less. In that moment of life, the result for Ken was clear, the game was over. He either jumped up in jubilation high fives all around for his winning team, or say “well, guess they’re going golfing tomorrow” referencing the players of his losing team. What happened next was simply what happened next. No one was less than or not worthy, and life went on.