There is something beautiful about waking up on MLK Day and remembering that it’s Victory Monday.
We are a Detroit Lions household. We spend more time than I’m willing to measure watching, re-watching, discussing, reading about, and then discussing again the Detroit Lions. And we have for years.
I spent significant time in the days leading up to yesterday’s Lions vs Rams game thinking about the layered complexities of professional sports in America. Professional football is problematic in a number of ways. We have shifted from cathedrals that stand to bring glory to God to cathedrals that stand to celebrate human (male) physical achievement and the excess of wealth. We are willing to sacrifice the mental and physical health of a large number of men (and by extension their partners and families) for entertainment. And the list goes on.
At the same time, this sport and this team has brought joy (and pain) and beautiful moments of community to us. The watch parties we have with beloved friends are some of our best core memories—even the most recent Lions vs. Cowboys game when our new friend Curtis, a lifelong Cowboy, came to watch with an entire house filled with Lions fans. I also have witnessed my spouse enter into meaningful conversations with people he wouldn’t engage with in other circumstances because of the Detroit Lions. Those conversations have certainly shaped him and how he lives in his particular time and space.
Community and friendship matter.
Additionally, being a football fan has opened up significant conversations around racism, institutional racism, white privilege, poverty, and justice issues in our country. Yes, we are Detroit Lions fans. But this, at least for us, means we are Detroit fans. We have seen a city decimated by white privilege and white flight. Yet we are witnessing a city fighting with grit to make a comeback. Football is a part of that fight and that grit. You can see it. You can hear it. You can feel it.
No. This was not what Dr. King meant in any of his powerful speeches that brought the violence of racism to light.
Yes. We have a sports problem in America.
And, yes, professional football is a severely flawed sport.
But as we remember a man, flawed himself but willing to fight for and die for justice, we also celebrate a city who has faced, and lived in, the darkness of racism and injustice for much too long.
So I’m going to take this moment of joy.
And then it will be time to get back the work of justice and peace.
That means making sure there are more opportunities for Black and Brown men than sports. That means fighting against those (white men) who hold all of the wealth and power. That means making room for women and LGBTQ+ in traditionally (toxic) male spaces.
It also means hyping up for next week.
Detroit vs Everybody