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  • Reverend James Squire

McCarthy Has Been Great

Not that McCarthy that lost the speakership and proceeded to kick Nancy Pelosi out of her office while she was away at the funeral for her friend, Diane Feinstein. Talk about revenge that is served up cold and being petty. I mean J.J. McCarthy of the Michigan Football Team has been great. I have played football. I have coached football. I love to watch football because it is a sport that I understand. I was watching the Michigan VS. Nebraska game this Saturday past. Something got my attention as well as the announcers at Fox News. It may seem like a small gesture to some, but with the emphasis today in sports and in life, particularly our political life, we are seeing more chest bumping and various scripts of planned performance of players in the endzone and on the floor of Congress. So, what I saw and heard stood out. J J McCarthy thanked his offensive line for the touchdown that he made. There is a very short video at the end of this blog capturing the moment.

The quarterback for Michigan, J J McCarthy, is one of the best players in college football. He is also known as one of the college players who matches his greatness with humility. Part of that humility rests within McCarthy himself and part is based in what Coach Harbaugh has created with an emphasis on team where there are no stars. There are also no defense or offense, only a wefense.

McCarthy is a big man on campus. The good news is that he does not see himself in that way at all. He said recently that “I love the heck (yes, that is the word he used) out of the fans and the university. So, it’s one of those things; treat others as you want to be treated. I hear about it (how well we are doing) around campus, but I try to let everyone know I am just as normal as you. We’re all human beings here and I just try to develop relationships as much as possible.”

Contrast this attitude and demeanor with the various scripted performances that occur in the endzones of most touchdowns. We have become a nation of performers rather than living with a sense of gratitude. What struck me was the way the Fox announcers were caught off guard that a player would think of thanking the people who got him into the endzone as opposed to his personal achievement. What was important about McCarthy’s words was how much his other centeredness eclipsed the look at, what at times in other teams, is a me self-centered orientation of a team.

When we are shocked when someone does the right thing, we should look at why we notice it in the first place. I believe that it tells us what needs to be corrected in our me centered world.

He never played football that I know about, but The Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, the Head of the Episcopal and Anglican Churches, went right to the importance of J J McCarthy’s words and actions in a world that is beckoning us for a return to another age of civility and ethical responses. Ramsey said, “Thankfulness is the soil in which pride does not easily grow.”

Humility in football starts with thankfulness. What too many fans don’t know is that the reason that players shake hands before a game at the flip of the coin is to THANK the other team for being present so that they could complete. You can’t play a game with just one team. Who gets to say who gets the ball first is a secondary consideration. We have seen this week in Washington that there is little gratitude expressed by the Democrats for the Republicans or vice versa. “Friends across the aisle” doesn’t seem to be much about friendship as it usually prefaces a criticism of the other party.

We need to pivot to consider one of my favorite quotations by another leader, Nelson Mandala.

“Sport has the power to change the world. Sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language that they can understand.” Mandala was not talking about the importance of winning. He wasn’t talking about muscled bodies on a field. He was talking about a metaphor that those who are not interested in sports could claim as well. Sports can reveal to us how to be grateful and humble that is being modeled by J J McCarthy. They can teach us about leadership and working together as a team interested in “we” and not “me.” The ethical life starts with gratitude and humility.

Another example of an athlete having a leadership style that empowers others with gratitude and humility is Jalen Hurts, quarterback of the Eagles. Michael Sielski, sports writer for the Inquirer, observed something that I had not thought about before. So many people are in engaged in Fantasy Football. They choose players to be on their team and their success of failure is determined by the statistics that their chosen players achieve in a game.

Owners of teams look at statistics as well including anything that can be measured. It’s called analytics. Hurts himself can squat 600 pounds, but you never hear him talk about that. Hurts will always place leadership above physical talents or statistics. He is a superstar who when asked about how he got to be so successful on the gridiron, had an unexpected response that was authentic to him. When he is asked how he became such a great leader of his team, he responded, “By losing.” I think that it is as simple as that. You come up short and ask yourself what’s more important than learning about getting better, (gratitude and humility) with the question how can I get better so the team is better.” Hurts like J. J. McCarthy, Mandala, and others who start with gratitude and humility become models of the ethical life for others in general and young people in particular.

Last night Kevin McCarthy was asked by the press why he started impeachment proceedings against President Biden. He responded by saying what he did was right. He listed a long list of crimes that President Biden had done. All of which if true would have already been brought forward. The member of the press was really asking why didn’t he bring the impeachment inquiry to a vote instead of him doing it on his own? He said, “What else could I do with these offenses?”

I did hear some gratitude for others for giving him an opportunity to be speaker, but I heard no humility about how he conducted himself as the Speaker of the House. He served up a large helping of pride. Which McCarthy would you want teaching your son or daughter about how to live the ethical life? The Speaker of the House or the quarterback from Michigan? You don’t even have to guess my answer.

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