Saturday night after the AFC playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, my seven year old son, Kieran, and I were sprawled out across the sofa in a coma of disappointment. Clad in our purple and black jerseys bearing the names and numbers of our favorite players, we lay…silent. Kieran was obviously on the verge of tears, so I finally mustered the courage to speak and asked him if he was OK.
He responded, “Dad, I’m sad that the Ravens lost, but I’m sadder that you yelled so much.”
He was right. As the Ravens benefited remarkably from Steelers miscues in the first half, I demonstrated “irrational exuberance,” and as their game plan devolved into an NFL follies reel in the second half, I came unhinged. As I processed this unintentional admonition from my son—who was likely most interested in the game simply because of the opportunity to spend time with his dad—my conscience initiated a discussion:
Conscience: “You know that football, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t actually important or inherently valuable, right?”
Tim: “Don’t be silly—of course it’s important and valuable! Coaches and players engage in healthy competition, putting their wits and bodies to the ultimate test! Tens of thousands of people engage in vigorous community at every game! Entire cities, divided in so many ways, come together in unity to support their team! Families and friends break bread and engage in fellowship around the game! What’s wrong with that??”
Conscience: “I didn’t say anything was wrong with football. I didn’t say it was bad. I said that it wasn’t important.”
Tim: “OK, so what about all that great stuff I said about community and cities and relationships benefiting from the game?”
Conscience: “All that stuff is good and important.”Tim: “But not the game itself, or its outcome?”
Conscience: “Right. And by the way, what of that goodness did you demonstrate or share with Kieran during and after this game?”
Tim: (Sigh) “Right.”
Conscience: “But it’s ok.”
Is there anything in your life that isn’t important that you’ve placed above something that is? How about MONEY? What is it worth? What is its inherent value and import?
NOTHING. The money in our pockets, purses, banks and investment accounts is actually of no genuine value. It’s literally worth only what we’re willing to believe it’s worth. This is true…even if we choose to deny it (and too often, I do). In the early 1970s, the U.S. went off of the “Gold Standard,” which pegged every dollar’s value to a certain amount of the tangible yellow stuff. Since then, we, as do most countries in the world, have a fiat money system. This basically means that our government prints money that we, as consumers, agree to BELIEVE has value.
But while money and football have no inherent value (I’m still struggling to write that), neither are they intrinsically good or bad. When properly viewed and balanced, football delivers an excellent platform for building strength, conditioning, teamwork and community (and controlled exuberance). Similarly, when the neutral tool of money is used to good effect, it provides, security, opportunity, aid for the underserved and myriad occasions for relational enhancement.
So neither football nor money are good or bad or important or of inherent value. When overvalued, they have a tendency to stand in the way of that which is truly valuable—RELATIONSHIP—but when employed with wisdom and understanding, the result is a fuller and more vibrant life.
(For the pragmatist unnerved by the philosophical leanings of this post, please note that those who effectively neutralize football and money, aiming for a goal loftier than winning and amassing, often tend to win and have more.)