A Simple Request

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I have a request.

Let’s try to just enjoy the Super Bowl this year.

There are a lot of obstacles to this seemingly simple request. Some like to make the rest of us feel guilty during the Super Bowl by saying silly things like, “If you cheered as loud at church this morning as you did for that last touchdown, the world would be a better place.” Over time, we’ve learned to tune these folks out. But, there’s one topic that still keeps finding it’s way into our Super Bowl enjoyment.

Race.

Are you surprised?

Neither am I.

Earlier in the week I saw a split screen picture on the Internet of Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, the two quarterbacks in this year’s big game. Peyton was wearing a suite and Cam was dressed like a kid who just left a skating rink. We were made to believe that this picture told us everything we need to know about the two men. The guy in a suit is the kind of guy you name your kid after and the guy in the knit cap is the guy you keep your kid from. Be like the guy in the suit. Don’t be like the guy in the knit cap.

Never mind the fact that Cam Newton frequently shows up to press conferences dressed in a suit that costs more than your home. And never mind the fact that Bill Belicheck’s wardrobe appears to have been picked out by a college freshman who thinks that it’s okay to wear pajamas to work. Every moment of our life is not a job interview. Clothes don’t tell you everything you need to know about someone.

I have never cheered for Cam Newton.

It’s nothing personal. I just don’t like the teams he’s played for. Also, the fact that those teams typically beat my teams doesn’t help.

A lot of people have a problem with Cam. They don’t like the dances he does after big plays and touchdowns. They don’t like it when he seems to be too competitive or doesn’t handle the sign of an opposing team’s fans with care. But there is one guaranteed, sure fire way to make those people suddenly have no problem with Cam’s antics.

Trade him to their favorite team.

Look, I don’t like to see Cam dance in the end zone. But boy, I sure did love it when Deion Sanders was an Atlanta Falcon and acted like MC Hammer after twelve too many Red Bulls whenever he picked off the other team’s quarterback.

One of the great things about sports is that it exposes our hypocrisy. We talk a lot about character and integrity being important for professional athletes. We make ourselves care about these things. That is, until our favorite team gets a running back with the ethical standards of Charlie Manson who also happens to run the 40 in 3.5 seconds. Then, it’s just a game.

I’m not telling you to cheer for Cam. I won’t be. I’m just pleading with you to enjoy the game and not make it about race. My fellow whites, Peyton Manning does not represent us. He represents the Broncos. And black friends, Cam’s Super Bowl performance won’t do much to advance or hinder black America.

Most of the men and women who are really doing something of importance will not be playing in the big game on Sunday. Instead, they are the ones who work hard on their marriage, invest heavily in their children, love their neighbor and, if that’s their thing, just have a good time watching two great quarterbacks in the Super Bowl.

So, at least for the Super Bowl, let’s look beyond the memes. Let’s not give in to the typical racial division that seems to find its way into every other aspect of our life and culture. Let’s pay more attention to the orange and blue uniforms than we do the black and white skin colors.

Let’s just enjoy the game.

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