Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Winning at All Costs

How could the noble desire of winning be considered an epidemic in our culture?

The problem is not that we want to win, it's that we are willing to win at all costs.

But it's not the virtuous cost of sacrificing self for the greater good of winning the prize. Rather, it's the disastrous cost that involves sacrificing character, trust, family, and the most important human relationships for the sake of winning. This is how winning has become losing in our culture.

Are we selling our souls for 10 wins, 5 under par, .300, 50% behind the arc, or, to bring it down to the even more absurd- a high score on Angry Birds? (Is it even possible to win Angry Birds? At least we used to be able to conquer our old video games. Donkey Kong would shut off after 21 levels, there was a princess to rescue on Mario & Zelda. There is nothing to win now... Maybe that's what makes modern game crack so addictive (i.e. World of Warcraft, Halo, Sim Anything, Plants Vs. Zombies...)

Reading these quotes in the USAToday article on the firing of Bobby Petrino is what made me want to process this (in the form of a blog rant)...

"'I hope he stays. He's a winner,' said 72 year old Judy Grisso. 'I don't want to judge his indescretions. We've seen so much of this lately, everywhere. Who are we to judge?'"

"Said Shod Neely, an industrial engineering major at Arkansas: 'I honestly don't care who he has sex with. It's irrelevant to me... I'm more worried about going back to losing than anything.'

"Obviously, he was stupid, but I'm more concerned about winning,' said Mark Thompsen, a 33 year old former Army sergeant who served in Iraq and is pursuing a criminal justice major at Arkansas. 'All I care about is beating Alabama and LSU. If we beat them I'm okay with it, short of him stringing someone up.'"

There's a bit of irony in the statement that she honestly doesn't care about people cheating
saying someone is a winner when they've just lost their integrity (and worse- their family).

Although the first woman wants to suspend all moral judgments ('Who am I to judge?') at least the last guy has some moral backbone (i.e. Lying and cheating may be overlooked for the sake of winning, but not murder)

Of course we'd all rather not have to choose, but I think these three Arkansas fans represent the not so subtle compromise of most Americans. If pushed, we would choose a coach who wins deceitfully over one who loses honestly. And it's not just sports fans who want their wins regardless of the shady means. I've seen more than a few churches turn a blind eye to a shady pastor because he's "such a great communicator." Proud and self-absorbed, but able to grow a mega-church. Neglectful of family, but preaching great sermons. Succeeding at all costs.

I hear the objection, "Even though Petrino's personal life has been one big lie, he didn't break a single NCAA rule."

There is always room in the rules for winning at all costs, but character should never be put on the altar of winning. So this is not a critique of Petrino's behavior as much as ours. We accept it because we want to win at all costs.

And sometimes the Law (that's even bigger than the NCAA) judges us and brings us to our knees. This is where we are inclined to hope and pray that great sin will once again draw out great grace- not only for Petrino, but for me as well (had he been wearing different colors, I may have more forbearance).

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