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Monday, March 31, 2014

It’s March Madness! Who Loves Ya, Baby?

 It's March Madness. Who loves ya, Baby?

For about five years, actor Telly Savalas* played a New York detective in the television drama Kojak. His trademark line, "Who loves ya, Baby?," became part of the American lexicon. He also created a new interest in lollipops.

I thought about that recently when I saw a newspaper poll asking about favorite teams in the NCAA basketball tournament. Or as most people call it, March Madness.

As it turns out, there is more madness than on the court. That same poll asked readers to identify the teams they most like to see LOSE! No doubt this kind of polling could be taken wherever there is intense rivalry.

I am guilty of this. While I have no particular loyalty to Duke, I have always admired Mike Krzyzewski. It is his commitment to build character into his players that most appeals to me. I consider him a class act in college sports.

If you didn't know, Duke is one of those teams people love to hate. So when they lost to an energized Mercer team in this year’s tournament in the first round, I was both shocked and disappointed. Others were cheering Duke’s early demise. But Coach K showed his truly classy side by visiting the Mercer locker room after the game.

This kind of resentment in sports also certainly applies in the business world. WalMart is a company a lot of people love to hate. Not me. I like WalMart. I have issues with the customer service I don't receive at times, but I admire the company and thought Sam Walton was a retail wizard.

I think the more sinister side of business bitterness is among companies and employees who cheer when a competitor fails or stumbles. Because large sums of money are at stake in a successful enterprise, big winners generally result in one or more big losers. And the losers who are knocked out of the game mean careers and jobs are gone as well. When that happens, I’m sure many a winner stands with fist pumps shouting, "Yeah!!!" Right?

This makes me wonder how to interpret Jesus's words when he says to love your enemy. Also, pray for those who persecute you. Read Matthew 5 to get the context.

What does this say to us in terms of our attitude toward our strongest rivals? I believe it calls for us to get a balanced perspective on winning and losing. And especially to recognize the pain and consequences that losers experience.

Really, no one likes a boastful, proud, or arrogant winner. And while it's tempting to stand over a fallen adversary in the dominant posture of a champion, our fall may not be far behind. In the midst of that defeat, I can easily see Jesus reaching out His hand to lift up the defeated one.

So…Who loves ya, Baby?

Now ya know.

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*Note: Savalas's real first name was Aristotle. Based in Chicago, the Aristotle Foundation continues to bless others charitably.

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