Where Have You Gone, Nelson Mandela? A Weary Nation Turns Its Eyes To You…


“There are no winners here, only losers…” sports radio icon Jim Rome stated as he opened his program yesterday. A strange thing to say after a grand weekend of sports mania. Sure there were winners: Georgia, Auburn, and Ohio State, all had moments of greatness which their fans will long remember. “There are no winners here…” Jim Rome said. He wasn’t talking about what was happening on the field. He had just finished cataloging a litany of off-the-field incidents from the weekend. You could call them Greatest Hits, but of course they ain’t the kind you see at the end of SportsCenter. In New York a fan is caught cheering for a player’s ACL to be torn. Happens every game, you say? The player’s ACL he wanted torn played for the team he supposedly supported. In Arizona a group of frat boys surround an old and belligerent fan from the other team. “There are no winners here.” The old man gets off a kick and knocks out one of the boys before being pounded into oblivion by the others. “There are no winners here.” In my home state of Alabama at least two people have been shot dead in the wake of Auburn’s stunning, last second touchdown. “There are no winners here… only losers.” 

Meanwhile the front runner for the Heisman Trophy given to the best college player has come down to a race between an accused rapist (who will not be charged due to lack of evidence.. not because he has been found innocent… because of lack of evidence) and an accused cheater and liar (who served a half game suspension before being benched in the second half of the same game for trash-talking). Sure there is the QB with good looks, an OK arm, but is better known for the beauty of his girlfriend. There is also the darkhouse RB who has gained 2000 yards for a multiple loss team. So good stories exist but as the voting goes on, you wonder and worry. Could it be there in this race there are only losers.

In other news across the pond a court found in favor of a gay couple who had their room taken away by the owners of the bed and breakfast at which they had hoped to vacation. The owners had refused to rent to any non-married couple. That is over now. Some complained about the lack of religious freedom, as if religious freedom means never having to come into contact with another belief  system. Some complained that in this day and age it was appalling that everyone in our society could not simply roll over on their beliefs and be happy happy happy with the lives they are leading. You hear stories and wonder could it be that there are no winners here. 

Sure, the stories I mentioned in the lead point to some other issues. We have created a false and potentially toxic relationship between getting drunk and watching sports. Somehow if you are not drunk then you are not a fan. Sure drinking a beer and having a dog before the game is a time honored tradition which we all enjoy. But can we simply watch the game and enjoy it without the excess of food and beer? Do we have to be gluttons to enjoy an athletic contest? You tell me. Without the alcohol both the New York and Arizona events probably do not exist. We have created a false and potentially toxic relationship with guns in this country. Somehow you are not American if you are not packing heat at all times and in all places. Sure we have a right to own firearms. No one should take that away. But does the ease with which we carry and pull them have to be so? Can we not have concern for life such that we limit our expression of our rights to gun ranges and truly life-threatening danger? When our best rights and traditions turn our dreams into nightmares, are there only losers left here among us? 

Thankfully throughout the turmoil of the past month, the scaremongers at large have not turned to the month’s most favored device: the war on Christmas. It seems to be this so-called war is of the same cloth as the other stories. The common thread weaving among  them is an inability to even tolerate (not love or relate to, but simply tolerate) the other. What has it all come to when we cannot simply stand to be different and still be together? It is not enough to believe something; you cannot be around anyone who believes otherwise. It is not enough to root for a team; you have to hate and fight to the death anyone who roots for another. In this fight, there are no winners. 

To be fair this fear and hatred is nothing new; perhaps it is just now televised or interneted. What was once a unconscious pressure on the back lobe of one’s brain is now a pain centered in our every waking moment. As these images fight for dominance in my consciousness another image has floated in. It is the smile of a gray-haired man. It is the image of that man walking out of prison. It is that man hugging his captors and leading an entire nation into an act of forgiveness for their oppressors. Now comes the audio. Slower than light but still here.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner,” the man says.

A pipe dream but one deserving a chance at reality. Swords being beaten into ploughshares. Lions laying down with lambs. A world in which the old dream dreams and the young see visions. A world when our sons and daughters prophesize. A world where a white boy and a black boy play in the red clay of Georgia. Is it just a dream, this world? Can we make it a reality? The life of Nelson Mandela seems to be a counterpoint to the fans turning guns on each other. Justice can be found. Forgiveness can be granted. The world can change and be made new and in this world there are only winners; there are no losers. 

May we always remember that love conquers hate. May we long for the day when justice rolls down like mighty waters. May we not forget that men and women like Nelson Mandela do exist and always remember that in them lays hope. 

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