Remember the Titans – Revisited

We all have our secret addictions. Mine is to sports movies. I have seen most of them and I often remember quotes from them. The quotes strangely flooded back to me this week. I was listening to one of the major cable news stations and they were airing footage of the protestors in Chicago on Black Friday and the reactions to those protests. People on both sides of the issue were screaming, pushing, and fighting one another; both sides yelling how un-American the other side was.

Remember the TitansI thought of Denzel Washington in “Remember the Titans.” I remembered him leading his team on a run and winding up in Gettysburg – and the battleground. The very ground that was anointed with blood from two sides that had gone beyond screaming to killing. The coach told his Titan players, both black and white that they needed to come together and they needed to understand each other as human beings. They did so and they became winners.

My mind skipped ahead to Al Pacino, in “Any Given Sunday,” and the coach (Tony D’Amato) who had made a lot of mistakes in his life, who had no choice at half-time but to exhort his team to either come together as a team, or “die” as individuals. They did and they became winners.

Welcome to America

It is three days after Thanksgiving as Chuck Gallagher and I write this. We know that despite the turkeys and stuffing and the bigger gluttony of shoppers rioting to save five bucks on an overpriced television, this nation we love so much is still badly divided. It tears me apart. Why in the hell have all of us allowed this crap to happen for so long? How come so much is the same?

Now we come back to sports.

Sports are not perfect, but they are closer to anything else our popular culture has these days for “harmony.” I do not know the racial/ethnic/religious breakdown of my favorite NFL team, I only know that I root for them as a team. While I am aware that they have different skin colors, I just don’t care. I don’t think most fans of any other team care either. They are “our team,” that’s what we know. Their colors are team colors.

So what is going on? Why is it that people in the same city can scream and shout and fight one another over racial issues and then turn around and cheer for the same team where a whole rainbow of colors and religions play together? How does that happen? And it’s not just NFL teams, but NBA, NHL, and MLB teams and on and on?

No, I’m not about to break into a chorus of Kumbaya, but seriously how have those of us who love sports so much have allowed so much discord to infect the fabric of this nation?

Six months or so ago, Starbucks wanted to turn their baristas into sociologists. Their heart might have been in the right place, but no one, anywhere took them seriously. The baristas at my local Starbucks (I know them well) were embarrassed and intimidated to dialog with their customers about “race.” I don’t blame them one bit. The customers wanted no part of it either. They wanted their Venti lattes and then they wanted to be left alone.

However, in the spirit of the Washington’s Titans and Pacino’s Sharks, it is the NFL who actually could effectively start a national conversation on race – and maybe even make it stick a little. The other leagues could pick up on it as well. I think a lot of America would listen to Cam Newton or Tom Brady telling us all to stop “fighting” and to start listening. If the NFL really wanted to make a difference in our society, it would not be a bad place to start.

We are ethically steadfast in our belief that sports can help heal this nation. Even if you hate sports, you have got to concede that professional and amateur athletes have an important platform. It is time those of us who want greater peace and understanding to push our leagues and our athletes to get up and say something positive.

I am not willing to give up on any of us. We are a great nation, let’s start acting great. I trust many of our teams and leagues can see that too.












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