My least favorite college basketball team (University of Louisville) is in a bit of hot water these days. A book came out last week that was full of allegations that a former staff member paid for escorts for players and recruits of the team, including bringing them to on campus housing. The allegations aren’t being denied, the NCAA is investigating and I have never seen their head coach more humble than in his press conference about it.
This scandal has been at the forefront of the sports news I follow this week and I spent some time Saturday catching up on blogs and I found myself listening to Pitino’s recent news conferences while cleaning. Listening to him talk about this broke my heart and convicted it at the same time. I have little respect for Pitino for a myriad of reasons and I have no idea how things with this scandal will play out, but it is clear that he’s upset, worried and that this really may be a career ender for him. It also became clear that there are a lot of UK fans cheering on his possible demise and leading in the ridicule of our biggest rivals.
I have to admit, one of my first responses to hearing this was to laugh. UofL fans have picked at UK’s head coach for years and like to call him a cheater and taunt that we can’t enjoy national titles or Final Four appearances because someday they will be vacated. I couldn’t help but note the irony that of the schools in Kentucky with a recent national title, it is Louisville in a scandal that could cause the banner to come down (although many sports experts are saying this isn’t too much of a danger.)
This might sound silly or trivial, but as I read more about the story I realized my reactions reveal so much about my character. In the sports world UofL is my enemy as a UK fan and how I treat my enemies says a lot about me and the state of my heart. Rejoicing that they are potentially in trouble or wishing bad or evil to the coach or athletic director reveals my own depravity just as much as this scandal potentially reveals theirs.
As a christian I’m called to care for my enemies in a way that is different than those who are not christians. In short I’m called to:
- Love them (Luke 6:27)
- Feed them (Romans 12:20)
- Bless them & pray for them (Luke 6:28)
- Repay evil with blessing (1 Peter 3:9)
- Not find joy in their hardship (Proverbs 24:17)
- To focus on the Lord, not them (Proverbs 16:7)
I think these truths apply to all areas of life, including my sports enemies. While I don’t think cheering against them in a game is the same as hating your enemies, cheering against them in life is. If I rejoice in the suffering of someone I don’t know because I perceive them as an enemy, what does that mean for those I do know who wrong me? As I’ve thought about that question, the answer is simply ugly.
Rejoicing and gloating when my enemy or even someone I just don’t like stumbles it makes me an ugly person- not them.
Finding joy in their pain makes me a hateful person- not them.
It accentuates my need for grace, forgiveness and healing- not theirs.
It makes me the real loser- not them.
This basketball scandal and the subsequent NCAA investigation may reveal a lot about the state of basketball and/or athletics in Louisville. I hope that this situation leads to positive changes in culture there, but more than anything that it leads to positive changes in me.