The Christ and Pop Culture 2022 sports roundup is an extension of The Coach‘s Box column, where we highlight the goodness and beauty of sports and explore the more profound questions beneath the surface-level analysis of sports.
We can mark 2022 as the year of “getting back to normal,” with sports helping us navigate the inroads we were familiar with pre-pandemic. Here are some of the biggest headlines and overlooked stories in sports from 2022’s fourth quarter.
Kyrie Irving Lambasted for Antisemitic Notions
Brooklyn Nets NBA superstar Kyrie Irving was reprimanded by many people for tweeting a link to the 2018 movie Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America. Rolling Stone described the movie as “stuffed with antisemitic tropes.” Instead of apologizing, however, Irving doubled down and defended his decision to tweet the link. “In terms of the backlash, we’re in 2022, history is not supposed to be hidden from anybody and I’m not a divisive person when it comes to religion, I embrace all walks of life,” he said. “So the claims of antisemitism and who are the original chosen people of God and we go into these religious conversations and it’s a big no, no, I don’t live my life that way.”
Despite backlash from several organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets, and Nets’ owner Joe Tsai, Irving remained steadfast in his views.
It wasn’t until the Nets suspended Irving and Nike cut ties with him that Irving finally had conversations and apologized about a month later. Then, of course, the situation sparked other debates about the treatment of Black superstars compared to their white counterparts when they say contentious and inflammatory things. The extent of Irving’s treatment seemed a bit extensive to the likes of superstars like LeBron James and Jalen Brown.
If there’s anything we can all learn from the Irving experience, it’s that compassion, empathy, grace, patience, and forgiveness are better barometers for our love of neighbor than simply being “right” or wielding free speech.
Dusty Baker Finally Gets Over the Hump
At 73 years old, Dusty Baker finally sealed a championship after a succession of devastating World Series losses over the past two decades. Baker, a former player and African American who played during baseball’s highly racialized days, harnessed his father’s negative motivation and the succession of failed World Series runs to secure a victory with the Houston Astros finally.
I discussed this “negative motivation,” as Baker describes it, back in November and the role it can play in forging perseverance within us. It can help us avoid “toxic positivity” and address our weaknesses in a way where we can walk with confidence that is tested and tried in truth.
Greatest World Cup Ever?
The 2022 World Cup had everything:
- Controversial national politics
- Last-minute changes prohibiting beer sales at matches
- Rules banning fans from supporting the LGBTQ community publicly
- The suspiciously sudden death of American sports journalist, Grant Wahl
And that was just off the field. On the field, controversial calls using Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology and inspiring play by Iranian players in the face of threats to their families by the Iranian government for the unjust treatment of their fellow Iranian citizens added to the seemingly non-stop drama.
In light of all the pageantry and grandeur, what ensued led to one of the most epic World Cup final matches that had everyone on edge. The match between Argentina and France, too, had it all: superstars, penalty kicks, extra minutes stacked atop additional minutes, last-minute scores, and iconic goal saves that culminated in a 5-shot penalty kick period that secured Lionel Messi and Argentina the 2022 World Cup.
The entirety of the World Cup escapade displayed the unifying dysfunction we share as humanity and, once again, the beauty sports has in bringing us all together.