If I had an egg timer for every thoughtful thing I ever had to say about someone I hip checked during a soccer game, it might lose count, not because counting minutes is obsolete, but rather because you never really stop feeling guilty for getting caught. Not because I cared so much for their well-being, but because in hind sight, I stopped games, I committed fouls, I was caught kicking the astro turf which was supposed to be green grass that ended up actually being the goalie’s big toe.
That I still recall those well wishes today says something that I cannot yet speak to, but I feel is a close metric to the ways in which children learn not through purely altruistic purposes, but rather through shame, hurt, and embarrassment that something they did was wrong. If some behavior is found to be unacceptable by peers and authority figures, the upper lip in disgust curls up. That creeping feeling of of being found out and shamed or humiliated by one’s own worst practices in the name of bad manners or unsportsmanlike conduct is something normal people grow out of or learn never to repeat by one-time open retribution, including but not limited to the cheer leaders throwing out a little pom-pom heavy haiku about you at half time in order to reform your better nature.
You are either with us or against us, that’s who, but what’s who? The royal who in this scenario is the thoughtful premise of the social contract that includes us in our own collectively agreed upon levels of acceptable progress, and throws us out on our own commonly held standards of bad acts. If one were to draw a line in the sand, no one would want to be voted off that island, the one with real people on it. No man is ever an island. I cannot imagine being in a place whereby some kind of lord of the flies directive turns us into targets of retribution for all our unsound achievements, but our collective contract on which the bargain of civilized behavior stands is buoyed offshore in that island’s shallow water. It is in these depths that we are all born out of. The low culture of our collective bad decisions piles up, in our mind’s collective bank accounts, accruing interest for some obscure rainy day fund in which it is entirely acceptable to reminisce about past mistakes.
Whether you are with one other person or in the company of thousands, there is a kind of catharsis to it, the admission of old bad deeds. There is a quality that exudes a connecting warmth that I might compare to the Catholic guilt at confession. What you can share you can shed, in the shame that took years off your life, or in the freedom that now permits you to speak freely about it. If we do not have opportunities to confess, the guilt binds us to guilt and shame and as it builds it may, as it might, manifest itself, through the years, in the form of a speeding ticket, a court summons for not paying said speeding ticket, and to subsequent time spent in jail for failing to appear in court. (As a side note, this is not an autobiographical admission of guilt, it is just a random sampling of one possible outcome from bad decisions.) What you did today you might not do tomorrow, but nobody who said that magically reversed the course of history.
That being said, all we can do is reflect on our bad decisions, learn from them, and make different choices. The story of shared guilt spills out over our own internal narratives to modern day NBA in one of my favorite teams, the Boston Celtics. During a 2015 season game between the Cavaliers and the Celtics, Kelly Olynyk accidentally popped out Kevin Love’s shoulder. In response, Kelly tried calling Kevin “multiple times”, reaching out to apologize time and again, but to no avail (Newport, 2015).
Kevin Love was interviewed as saying he did not return any of Kelly’s calls, saying, “Oh yeah. I’m over it. I’m just trying to get healthy” (Newport, 2015).
A bit of back story on Kelly Olynyk. He is known in the league as the Canadian mamba. The alias is rooted in the mash up of the meaning behind what a poisonous snake can do to a person and the lasting impression a Canadian can make. See also: Black Mamba in the Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill I and Kill Bill II. Played by Daryl Hannah, she is distinguished by the patch she wears over one eye socket. Uma Thurman’s character pulled out an eye with her bare fingers in the first Kill Bill.
Black Mamba is also annotated by the snakes she leaves in the homes of her victims, who lie in wait to poison and subsequently snuff them out. Although Kelly Olynyk is none of those things, neither possessing only one eye nor sicking snakes on his competition, he is from Canada, and he is distinguished not only by his potential, but also his noted passiveness when running to the hoop. In a 2014 Bleacher Report article, Michael Pina wrote about Kelly Olynyk in the following way: “But once his assertiveness catches up with his still-growing talent, Olynyk will be one of the most difficult matchups in the league” (Pina, 2014). For a young man in the NBA, one who is a bit shy on offense, can be also talented, in spite of himself.
Although there may be snakes lying at our feet in any doomsday scenario, there is always a risk of regressing back to the days when you thought the rapture might take you up, away from your worries, so you would not have to face a fate worse than losing a game, or potentially being so embarrassed you would kindly let the floor swallow you whole. These daily conundrums might become less and less depending on the day we are having, working through our anxieties, our doubts, our own sense of self-defeat. The rows of thoughts we line up like chairs in a stadium that are all there to look at you to see you be the best you can be. When we fail, we are bent so low, trying to find the words that are missing to account for what went wrong. It is in the redemption of shared forgiveness that one can forge ahead alongside other people’s rows of chairs, filled with people who came to watch you win.
Newport, Kyle. Cavaliers’ Kevin Love Won’t Accept Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk’s Apology
for Injury. Bleacher Report. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. 7 May, 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2016. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2457245-cavaliers-kevin-love-wont-accept-celtics-kelly-olynyks-apologies-for-injury
Pina, Michael. How Kelly Olynyk Can Become the Star the Boston Celtics Believe He
Will Be. Bleacher Report. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. 28 Nov., 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2016. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2281596-how-kelly-olynyk-can-become-the-star-the-boston-celtics-believe-he-will-be