“…we’re talking about practice…”

“…we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last but we’re talking about practice man.”  — Allen Iverson

One of the most entertaining yet painful rants of all time is Allen Iverson’s ‘Practice’ rant (if you have never seen it you should take time to watch/listen).

I was – and still am – an Iverson fan, a great but troubled basketball player who hoisted the Sixers on his shoulders for years.

And I get the dysfunction on his side of that rant – practice is important especially in a team game like basketball.  I was lucky to watch the 1983 Doctor/Moses/Toney Sixer trio practice often the year they won the championship: they knew the value of practice.

But the media’s dysfunction in this story usually goes unnoticed.  They thought they knew what the problem was, and the solution.  “He needs to practice with his team, develop chemistry, he needs to be traded, blah blah blah.”

The simple fact is that without the right chemicals, the chemistry doesn’t matter:  Iverson was not surrounded with top notch players, and the times he made the playoffs are testimony to how hard he played in each game.

Recently I found myself listening to friends debate the North Carolina bathroom issue. “We’re talking about bathrooms”.  Once again the media preaches what the problem is, what the solution is.  Springsteen sings (err, doesn’t sing), Paypal boycotts and the NBA treads carefully trying not to paint their biggest star’s franchise into a box.

I thought about Iverson’s rant, “we’re talking about practice bathrooms”.  The ‘game’ that we are missing, where the real civil rights injustices are happening, is far away – places where people are beheaded, girls are kidnapped, raped and/or sold into slavery, extreme poverty has people dying long before their time, disease, unjust prison time, and on and on.

And we talk about bathrooms.  Without the right chemicals, this practice bathroom debate will never ring true to reasonable people.  A person feeling uncomfortable in a bathroom is like Walter White trying to make his meth with baking soda, his best never more than a science fair volcano or a soda bottle rocket.  Compared to the people that ISIS is terrorizing – or worse – beheading, the science fair volcanoes of this great country look silly, even arrogant.

Our media gives lip service to the real injustices, with obligatory token coverage.  Then they return to what pays the sponsors: trivial topics that fire up the masses about ‘practice bathrooms’.  Will we demand more?  Are we capable of demanding more?

I’m skeptical because we’ve created a digital tower of babble.  Everybody is talking, sometimes shouting, as we try to build the perfect society.  Nobody is listening, poisoned by the noise of the teams we’ve joined: the ‘right’, the ‘left’, ‘liberals’, ‘conservatives’, etc. The cheerleaders get us fired up for our team, armed with cameras that feed their revenue streams.

Unfortunately the voices that need to be heard are lost in the noise. The ‘perfect society’ crumbles around us.

If you believe that you have the solution to this problem, you are probably part of the problem.  If we want to foster a perfect society, we need to become a society with two ears and one mouth:  we need to take time to listen closely, not just to the cheerleaders urging us on, but also to people with opposite views.  Each of us has been given pieces of wisdom that help complete the puzzle.  The other side is almost never completely wrong, just as you are never completely right.  (sorry if you are hearing this for the first time!)

But most we need to listen for the voices of those truly suffering who cannot be heard.