How to Ruin a Person

Give strong, talented, entitled young men a huge pile of money and endless streams of adulation, and what do you get? Apparently you get athletes behaving badly. Most recently, this has been my hometown football team’s jet-propelled receiver, Tyreek Hill. Back in March we learned that Hill was somehow involved in a domestic abuse investigation. As it turned out, his three-year-old son had a broken arm that seemed suspicious. Medical personnel, it turns out, have pretty good radar at distinguishing between a fall on the trampoline and an arm twisted too far.

Wednesday, the Johnson County, Kansas DA announced that no charges would be filed in this case. You could practically hear this guy trying to get the bad taste out of his mouth:

We have a heightened responsibility to protect those individuals (who can’t protect themselves), and so it bothers us when we see something that’s happened to a child like this and we can’t do anything about it.

If I understand the DA’s words properly, he was basically saying that he thinks somebody hurt this child, but when dad says mom didn’t do it and mom says dad didn’t do it, what are you going to do?

And then yesterday, the plot turned in a bizarre way. A recording, secretly made by “mom,” Hill’s apparently permanent fiancé and the boy’s mother, surfaced. Why would this woman release the recording now? Why would she give it to a local TV news reporter rather than law enforcement? Why, when it seems to include among a lot of really unpleasant stuff, her admitting to lying to investigators, would she release it at all? These are all questions that remain to be answered.

Of course, the experts who populate the Internet have already launched into full opinion-spewing. Some condemn the Chiefs for ever drafting Hill since he had issues while in college. Some think that they should immediately fire the man. Some think that nothing should happen. Some blame a thuggish culture in the NFL. Some blame the fiancé. A few are so short-sighted that they can only think about what this means to the team’s chances next year, thanking their lucky stars that the story broke before their fantasy draft.

But who’s thinking about a three-year-old little boy?

Who is thinking about a boy who is apparently afraid of his father’s discipline? Is it the mother who has stayed with a man whom she knew was abusive for years? Chiefs fans have offered token thoughts about the child before charging ahead to opine on the weightier matters of football.

To his credit, the Johnson County DA does seem to be thinking about the child.

What happens when we treat a game as if it were life and death? What happens when we place strong, talented young men onto a level that far exceeds their real significance? Sometimes nothing bad, but sometimes this is what happens. And what happens to the child of that twisted psyche? Perhaps he’ll be a professional athlete. We can only hope.

Expecting to Fear No Man

I’m pretty sure that it has been at least 20 years since I attended my last Kansas City Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium. That changed Sunday when my son bought us tickets to see the home team play the Jacksonville Jaguars. All week long, the hubbub from people who know things about football had been trumpeting the “elite” Jacksonville defense. “Sure,” they suggested. “The Chiefs have a good offense, but they haven’t been up against a unit like this one.”

By the end of the day, the Chiefs offense had scored a healthy 23 points on this elite defense (the KC defense adding another touchdown), and the Browning boys went home happy. We can be certain that the Chiefs knew very well how talented their opponents would be, but they believed in themselves, in each other, and in their leaders.

Why do I mention something as unspiritual as NFL football? Am I dealing with my feelings of guilt for playing hooky from worship? I don’t think so. Instead, I’m reminded of a simple fact about life: when we expect ourselves to fail, we usually come through and live down to that expectation.

Read Numbers 13 and consider the differing responses of the scouts sent by Moses into the Promised Land. After some vocal members of the scouting party have bragged on the place, somebody, Numbers 13:28 tells us, voices that troubling word: “however.” Yeah, the land is great; however, the people are giants. We can’t beat them.

In response to these words, up jumps Caleb: “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” What a guy, this Caleb! Wouldn’t you be inclined to follow his leadership. He heard the same things that the others heard. He saw the same walled cities and tall enemies. So why was Caleb saying “Let’s go up now” while the others were drifting toward the rear?

Clearly Caleb believed in himself. For some reason, despite what he’d heard, he believed in his fellow Israelites, but most importantly, he believed in their leaders–yes, Moses and Aaron, but their ultimate leader, God himself.

When we believe that we will be defeated by whatever faces us this week, we’ve taken the first step to failure. Rarely do we succeed when we expect to fail. On the other hand, we sometimes fail when we expect to succeed, but the odds are far stronger.

This week, I expect to face a few challenges from other people. I can shrink from them or I can assume that God will be beside me. Like Caleb, I can say, “Let’s go up now!”