It’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The score is tied with 4 seconds left and the Cleveland Cavaliers George Hill is attempting his second free-throw shot. The shot goes up, hits the rim and J.R. Smith rebounds. Those of you who watched the game know the rest of the story, but for those of you who didn’t or don’t follow sports, J.R. Smith made the decision to dribble the ball out to the perimeter instead of either taking a shot to win the game or pass it to LeBron James, who statistically has a higher chance of shooting a game winning shot.
Smith kept the ball and made the “mistake” of not taking a shot immediately, calling a timeout, or passing to LeBron. The game goes to overtime, and the Golden State Warriors win Game 1.
The consensus: J.R. Smith lost the game for the Cavs.
During the post-game I watched ESPN corespondents dismantle the intelligence of Smith. I observed people on Instagram and Twitter blame Smith for losing them money they had bet on the game (do we really need to acknowledge the stupidity of this accusation?) I read comments from other Professional Athletes proclaiming Smith as a “#Dumbo” for the decision he made. Even I came into work the next day and proclaimed to my co-workers “What did we expect from J.R.?” as if I knew anything about J.R. Smith. As if I’d ever played a single day of professional basketball in my life ( I played B-team in middle school — picture Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly and you’ll have an accurate depiction of my basketball abilities). I had no business talking trash about Smith to anyone, about anything, and that’s when I realized it: I had chosen to abandon truth and empathy for the sake of joining the Mob.
This “Mob” is bigger than basketball though, isn’t it? This is where we are as a culture. We find a mistake and we crucify the individual who made it. I’m not referring to individuals or party’s who have committed crimes, been accused of sexual assault/harassment or spouted racial slurs etc. These are not mistakes. These are lifestyle choices, that require consequences. I am talking about a decision made in the public eye by an individual that we would deem deviates from the standard we expect. Define it yourself if you’d like, but I think you get the point.
A basketball player makes a mistake, we destroy his intelligence for the sake of self-validation, and yet we wonder how we have individuals in positions of leadership void of empathy or moral integrity.
We are shaping our Culture everyday in ways we (apparently) don’t realize. Social media outlets and News Networks survive and thrive based on their followers choosing the mob-mentality of presumed agreement of a mistake. Every-time we Tweet, Like, or Share a comment that reinforces the mob-mentality, we strengthen that construct and dismantle the positive elements of the individual Human.
What this illustrates is that our culture, society, and Government is not simply decided by the Vote, but is certainly decided by the actions and decisions we make everyday. You can cast a ballot all day long, but if you decide it’s better to feel included rather than to be morally upright, your Vote is worthless.
The relentless degradation of J.R. Smith in light of his Game 1 decision illustrates that moral integrity, empathy, and compassion are not only seen as irrelevant, but that ratings, likes, shares, and retweets are more important than that of the feelings human being.
In closing, I am realizing more and more that we are creating the culture we clearly deserve. If our goal continues to be flattering our ego at the expense of others, we will be living in a world in which mistakes are fatal, empathy is obsolete, and forgiveness is an illusion.