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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Something About Maruice

Time to start inching my way back into blogging, catching up on all the things I've thought, "Hmm... that'd be worth saying something about." I'm not sure how many of you follow football, but if you do, then perhaps you've heard of Maurice Clarett. There's a very interesting editorial piece on him over on ESPN... interesting, because it actually contains some very penetrating observations:
When your life goes from the sky to the sewer in four years, how can you tell where the blessing is?

What if in your life, with all of the accolades, promise and acclaim, the best thing that ever happened to you was when those cops pepper-sprayed you and cuffed you and ducked your head into the backseat of their squad car? What if it was all finally over? What if the last thing that happened to you saved your life?
Now, that's not a perspective you normally hear coming from anyone involved in sports at any level - instead, what usually gets bandied about is how SPORTS is what saves someone.
the Maurice Clarett who just had his bond raised from $200,000 to $1.1 million to $5 million in two days thought football was going to save him. Thought it would stop him from being the person that lived inside of him. But once the game was removed from his life, once he realized the NFL would exist without him, the truth of his life was exposed to him. To the point where he couldn't even help it, or himself.

Which is why (and how) a young man goes from being a third-round draft pick in April 2005 to getting charged with robbing people for cell phones in alleys at gunpoint in January 2006.

"He's a thug," Hubbard HS (Chicago) defensive coach Andre Curry said. "I hate to say that, but it's true. He used football to get away from a troubled childhood. Now that football is out of his life, the true Maurice Clarett comes out."

As cold as that sounds, it's fair. Acutely accurate. But it doesn't explain the how and the why, the reason.
This my friends, is what theologians mean when they talk about the 'depravity of man' - not that someone like Maurice is as bad as he could possibly be; but that all of us are like Maurice to some degree if you dig deep enough beneath the surface. The only difference, is that most of us are much better at hiding it, much better at thinking through the consequences, of not making rash decisions based on the deepest desires of our heart.

There are a lot of people who are probably smarter than Maurice. But all of us are just as bent deep down. Most of us just do a better job of hiding it than others.

In church today, we read this confession in unison:
Heavenly Father, forgive us when we do the right things for the wrong reason. We confess that our good behavior is often a subtle form of manipulation; we serve our spouses, our children, our parents, our neighbors, not our of love for Christ, or even out of love for them, but out of our love for ourselves - our own desire for approval, acceptance, sex, or power.

We confess that we often 'love' others so that we get what we want. We give in order to receive...
So what if there was no one left to impress, to manipulate, to fall back on. The reason everyone loved Maurice in the first place was because of his abilities - not because of him, but because of what he could do for others - score touchdowns, help the team, be a superstar, sell advertisting. And as soon as he could no longer do that, all those people who loved him turned the other way and cut him loose.

What if we no longer had anyone who cared? What if we were truly left alone with ourselves? Would we really act all that differently? I suspect there's a lot more Maurice Clarett in all of us than any of us would care to admit...


At 1:13 PM, August 14, 2006, Blogger Rooster said...

Outstanding post, Christian. Keep up the "street theology." I love it!


At 8:26 AM, October 21, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Fascinating story - it's fascinating to see how issues like "depravity of man" and "original sin" come back to life in stories like this.

Here in northwest Ohio, where much of life is built around housing and autos, the economy is tanking big time. And crime is going up. People are learning, yet again, that they are exactly one paycheck away from disaster - from the street - from homelessness and hopelessness.

No one who has ever been facing the street - who (like me) ever considered selling blood at a blood bank to get food or medicine - would ever question how likely it would be that we could steal to live. But for much of the world, ever having to face that possibility is so remote, it's easy to see why it's so incomprehensible.

One of the reasons 12-step recovery groups work as well as they do is because the shame of the past is replaced by the community of the present. The world of recovery is one of "friends in low places," as the song goes. As one wag says, "We didn't all get here on the same ship, but we all end up in the same boat."

And it's only in a place of shared community, hope, and compassion that recovery and rebirth is possible...


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