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  • Reverend James Squire

You Can't See Me

There are times when being too inclusive can work against you. Jill Biden found this out the hard way. I watched the Women’s Basketball National Championship game from beginning to end. As many games are, it was hard playing by both LSU and Iowa. Toward the end of the game, Angel Reese, a superstar on the LSU team got in the face of Caitlin Clark, winner of the NCAA best woman basketball player award in the nation who plays for Iowa. Reese gave her the “you can’t see me” symbol of her hand in front of Reese’s face pointing as well to the finger that she would wear her championship ring. Earlier in the series during the final eight Caitlin Clark did the same gesture with her hand in front of her face (obviously not pointing to her ringer figure as it was not the final game) against another opponent, but it seemed to be more general for all of her opponent’s players.

The “you can’t see me” gesture originated with John Cena, a WrestleMania star. Whoever thought that a hand gesture from pro-wrestling would be a topic of a great deal of conversation after the Women’s NCAA Basketball final game. The gesture means “I’m so good, strong, and fast that you can’t even keep up with me; you can’t see me. I’m operating at a higher level than you are competitively, athletically, and mentally.”

When I read some of the statements made about Clark and Reese both using the gesture and people applauding Clark and chastising Reese, it seemed that a double standard was in play. Clark seemed to get positive comments and praise and celebrated including how she congratulated LSU and Reese for being true Champions. Reese was receiving harsh criticism as being classless for the gesture. Was Clark’s gesture more noble than Reese? Was Reese living out another form of racism? Again, context plays a role as Reese’s perception of the matter was that she had been seen as more “ghetto” and other slurs in past experiences.

What was lost in the translation of the game was the high-level athleticism and passion with which it was played. Women were recognized as the great athletes that they are.

To throw fat on the fire, however, Jill Biden, being a “Philly Girl”, her words when she went to the defense of her husband when a woman jumped on stage with Joe when he was a candidate, should have known better than to invite both teams to the White House to celebrate the championship game. I believe that she was at the Super Bowl as well. Would Joe Biden invite the Eagles and the Chiefs to the White House? You only invite the winners.

Jake Tapper tried to come to Dr. Biden’s defense by saying, “Hey, she’s a grandmother after all!” I took offense at that comment. I know grandmothers who know more about sports than a good many people I know. I was talking with a grandmother yesterday who was very distraught about the Phillies because of specific weaknesses in the team. She could name them. I had no idea why they were losing.

Dr. Biden’s heart was in the right place, but when passion for anything is in the works, reason leaves. Hence, Reese’s negative reaction to (through her spokesperson) Biden’s apology. It also didn’t help that Joe Biden didn’t fill in his bracket for March Madness with LSU doing well.

But when strong reactions and excuses occur to defend someone, look for something deeper. Regarding the fallout, look for self-confirming behavior. If you are looking for an injustice, you can usually find it. I think that is what inflamed Reese’s response. Likewise, if you are looking for the best women’s basketball player in the nation who has nothing to prove, you can see why she did the “you can’t see me” gesture in another game and also the gracious gesture of sportsmanship when losing. Did they both bring expectations of others and self-confirming behavior to the table of opinion?

I know that Reese and Clark are going to meet sometime in the future and they are going to have a bond of having played in that passionate hard-fought game. They may even embrace. Other players on the bench will remember it as well as contributing in their way to the success of the team. How do I know that? I know that because being a Philly person has another side to it.

My extended family was half Roman Catholic and half Episcopalian. The football game between the parochial school and the public school on Thanksgiving Day was always hard fought. After the game at the family dinner, depending on who won or lost, half the family was in a state of glee and the other half in tears. Talk about passion! Fast forward to when I was the Chaplain at the Episcopal Academy.

I was asked to be on the altar when a father of one of students died of a heart attack on an Easter Sunday. The student was my advisee and a big-time player on our football team. When I arrived at the inner-city church for the Mass of Christian Burial, the Roman Catholic clergy treated me like I had the plague. Finally, one of the priests who supervised sports in parochial schools came over and asked how I knew the student. I told him that in our school, I made sure that the students chose their advisor as a key relationship. He knew the reputation of my advisee on the gridiron and asked what I knew about football, with the tone of not expecting much. I told him that I played a bit in high school. He asked me where I was from. It turned out that we were on the same field on opposing teams for one of notorious Thanksgiving football games even though I was on the bench. I became his instant best friend. He invited the other clergy over to meet me and we shared stories. We knew a lot of the same people.

Dr. Jill Biden, there is another side of being a Philly boy or girl. The shared hard-fought game can be thicker than blood or religion. I hope that Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese experience that in their future, no gestures needed.

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