As you may know by now, I love talking football, about what he did. I love sharing stories about the cutie pie football player who captured my heart so many years ago, the guy who was a great high school and middle school coach. Today I share a story I don’t love.
What He Did
A week ago we learned that one of our ex-Seahawk players had been arrested after crashing his car and then trying to break into his in-laws’ home. What he did was a breaking story in the Pacific Northwest that became a national headline in days.
My first reaction was “What????”
As more and more details became known and shared on the evening news, I was stunned. I was taken aback when a surveillance video became the lead story the day of his arraignment for criminal trespass, malicious mischief, resisting arrest, driving under the influence, and reckless endangerment of roadway workers.
The tape showed a man out of control, a sad chapter in a standout career of big plays and big talk.
Even though this is a story about what he did, this is not a message about guilt or innocence. I’m not sure whether we were watching a domestic violence situation or a mental health crisis or a mental health crisis that had become a domestic violence situation.
But I found myself very, very sad to see our national news leading with a terrible situation, a situation that involved not just the player, but an entire family, his wife, a young son and daughter, even his in-laws.
What he did is not a first. He’s not the first person to crash in the public spotlight, to have been arrested as part of a public meltdown. He won’t be the last. What I struggle with is my response as a woman of faith.
What He Did, What We Do
For days now I’ve asked God for wisdom and discernment.
Without passing judgment, with blaming anyone (or giving anyone a free pass), without focusing on the lewd and crude, the salacious and the sensational, how do we respond as people of faith?
Not only when something happens to them, whoever “them” might be, but also when stuff happens to those we know and love, those at work, at church, in the neighborhood.
Facts aren’t the truth. It’s easy to think I know what happened last week in the early morning hours of a family’s emergency. I think I know what he did. I’ve heard the 911 call; I’ve seen the video. I’ve seen a husband and wife walk into the courthouse hand in hand. The charges have been made public. Every news outlook has given us a blow-by-blow report.
But I don’t really know anything. I don’t really know what he did. I don’t know why the anger, why the frustration, why the late night explosion. I don’t know where the story really started. I don’t know how a storied career became an out-of-control episode of rage, followed by out-of-desperation remorse.
And thinking I know more than I do can quickly turn into judgment. And judgment is dangerous.
Having too many facts and I can quickly start pulling together what I think happened. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what he did.
I know that someone under the influence put his family and the community in danger. I know that someone’s life unraveled in front of God and everyone and his entire family is now dealing with the consequences.
But I have to be careful that I don’t take what I think I know and pass judgement. When I know the facts, I can easily think I know the situation, know what he did, know what’s important and what’s not, and when that happens, I often discover that I’m totally wrong, that I misunderstood intentions and maligned someone unfairly.
I am not the judge. I am not the jury as life unfolds.
Transitions are hard. Saturday night I had a chance to meet Chad Brown, another former Seahawk. Without throwing his own penalty flag, without going to the replay camera of public opinion, he said (from his own experience), “Transitions in the NFL are hard.”
What He Did, What We Do, What God Does
Yes, they are, and so are our own. I have only to think back to my own challenges as I went from classroom teacher to union positions, from politics to finance. There were tears and missteps, meltdowns and misunderstandings.
It was not easy. At times it was excruciating, and I didn’t have to do it in the harsh glare of an unforgiving spotlight.
More important that prying is praying. One morning I caught myself doing a google search. Have there been other episodes of violence? Still playing for the 49ers? Who’s his wife? Still living in Seattle?
It was the 2021 version of the gossip game. Realizing that I’d really been prying, I apologized in my prayers and asked God to forgive me.
I also asked God to be with the player and his family, giving them the courage needed to make some hard decisions, the strength needed to put their family first, the love needed to not only forgive, but to expect more of each other.
Back in the day, we cheered the Legion of Boom’s explosive defense. We applauded trash-talking pregame interviews and post-game hyperbole. And then we expected the guys to leave the clubhouse model citizens, nominees for Husband of the Year.
It’s reasonable to expect the best of our leaders, our heroes, all those around us. It’s unreasonable to think there won’t be screwups. We all need prayers.
God knows we’re broken people. At a very low point in his life, King David wrote in the 34th Psalm, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
We all have crushing moments, some very public, others not, and God is there for us. The apostle Paul reminds us in his letters to the Romans and also the Ephesians that
“(w)hile we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And we are saved by grace through faith and this not of our own doing. It is a gift from God, not a result of our works, so that no one may boast.
There’s a insightful children’s song that begins “O be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love. So be careful little eyes what you see.”
The second verse begins “O be careful little ears what you hear.”
The song continues with be careful little tongue what you say and be careful little hands what you do.
Then comes be careful little feet where you go and be careful little heart whom you trust.
Last is be careful little mind what you think.
What can we do as people of faith? We can be careful what we see, what we say, where we go, whom we trust, and what we think, remembering what he did, what God did.