America’s “Horcrux”: Sports Heroes and Villains


Are we as a people too emotionally invested in sports? Kwame Brown, and Harry Potter, may hold the answer.

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Sports has become in many ways a horcrux – that thing that Voldemort used to store his soul in Harry Potter.

We seem to store and battle our own soul in the sports arena. We do this sometimes in a way that bonds us. But, in large part, it also disconnects us from life and from one another.
As an experienced instructor, play advocate, a psychology professor, an athlete, and a father – it is eye-opening to consider my current point of view with respect to sports and compare it to my perspective as a younger man. My vision in the past few years has become a whole lot clearer.

I care a whole lot more about the world my little girl is going to grow up in than I do who wins the Super Bowl. I will watch the Super Bowl with friends and hope for a clean, fun game, while rooting for my favorite team. But in comparison to solving real problems, the Super Bowl isn’t even close on my radar.

I am not someone who hates sports, or who feels shunned/excluded by it. I have been a lifelong sports fan. When my dad and I watched sports, our dog Asha used to leave the room. Yup, it got that loud! In my later adolescence, I trained intensely to become a powerful, fast athlete, and I was successful in doing so. I also worked with athletes for a long time.

Now let’s talk.

We really need to take a hard look at what we are doing with sports in this country. The issues I discuss in this piece are present elsewhere in the world, but I live here in the United States. I was born here. I know “here.”

I have watched more of us over the last few weeks discuss groundbreaking, world-changing issues like deflated balls and which guy we have never met is the best quarterback/linebacker of all time. More people have lit up social media “trending” these things than have discussed actionable ways we can solve world hunger or education. More people will share and re-tweet that kind of thing than show up at PTA meetings. How many of us discussing the ins and outs of which boxer hit the hardest know our neighbors’ special gifts and talents?

When Lebron made “The Decision,” people demonstrated in the streets. They burned his jersey. Are we really that mad over where someone decides to play basketball, or is something else going on here?

Displacement: “An unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind substitutes either a new aim or a new object for goals felt in their original form to be dangerous or unacceptable.”

I believe that there are things we are truly angry about. Things like the hoarding of money in the economy, the feeling of working hard day and night and having little to show for it. We are angry about feeling disenfranchised and abused. But the perpetrators of these transgressions against “us” are perceived as too powerful, too big to fight. We often feel too small or lost to really change the big equations.

So, we displace our anger, our desire for heroism onto vicarious representations. We cyclically worship and tear down the incarnations of our fears, our hopes and dreams because the real fears, hopes and dreams intimidate us beyond measure.

Does this mean that I think that sports are “bad” and that we should stop watching it? No, it means that I think we should simply try to stop displacing. I think we should allow ourselves to look in wonder at athleticism, and root for our favorite teams/athletes. But we should stop getting into fistfights and having vehement arguments about what goes on in a football or basketball game.

It is truly a waste of time. We have better things to do, like playing together and investing time in our own communities. Do I think people that have hours-long sports debates are not doing any of that? No. I think that energy is a finite resource, and we need to be spending more of it on real lived experiences, and real connections.

I am also aware that sport in some instances has bettered humanity. But not like this. Not when we displace real life into the watching, and the endless debating.

Further, I am not looking to celebrities/athletes to raise my child, or to hold up as my example of morality. Why would I do that simply because someone runs fast? That makes no sense. No, I look for my examples throughout humanity. Some wonderful examples happen to BE athletes. A couple of them happen to be my parents. Many more happen to be my teachers, neighbors, mentors, and students.

We should save that energy for the real world, and the real issues we have to solve. If we are to be vehement, and have hours-long discussions – let us solve racism. Let us solve world hunger. Let us create cooperative economics the likes of which the world has never seen. Let us create a world in which childhood is truly nurtured. Let us figure out how to locally grow and distribute food. Let us find ways to exist in better harmony with nature.

Let’s not store our collective soul in the horcrux. Remember, Voldemort was destroyed. Will we choose to displace into darkness, resigned to a life of being entertained by vicarious experiences of relatively trivial triumph and tragedy in lieu of solving real life problems? Or can we focus our greatest energy on living, and leave entertainment purely as entertainment?

By: Dr. Kwame Brown. This piece originally was posted on The Good Men Project.

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