This one is about racism and police brutality and the Bible, Constitution, two X’s – Title IX and X-Men. It’s about radio and TV, movies and Xbox and mass shootings.
Oh, and of course Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and Baker Mayfield and sports, because, you know, “stay in your lane,” and all that stuff. This is a sports column on a sports website, so, yeah, I get it. You come here to read about sports and you tune in to listen to sports.
But this is something bigger and it’s something that’s happened in my life that maybe can also be part of your life, too. One day, I stopped for a coffee and started talking with Paul Kingery about soccer. Five years later, we’ve kept the conversation going, adding a few permanent members to the conversation and even inviting in a few others from time to time.
Now, every Thursday morning, I meet with a pair of pastors and an African-American software engineer and business consultant. An odd foursome, considering I’m a white 40-something with a slight allergic reaction to organized religion.
What started off as a chance conversation about soccer has turned into a weekly meeting where we talk about all sorts of things and all sorts of situations – often times where I’m forced to re-think what I think and undo what I’ve learned.
I’m sure this week we’ll talk about the shootings in El Paso and in Ohio. Maybe another shooting, too. Hopefully not. Either way, I’m fairly certain we’ll find something to disagree about beyond my disinterest in super hero movies (not interested), my lack of Biblical knowledge (not well-read enough) and my perceived slights of Westbrook and Mayfield (not even close to true).
And that’s what I look forward to the most in our weekly meetings. It’s Twitter, but face-to-face. It’s Facebook, but without the bragging. Everyone gets a chance to talk. No one gets unfriended or blocked. It’s a real-life podcast. A deep dive without commercials. I love my job, getting to talk about all sorts of topics for more than three hours a day, but Thursday’s at 10 a.m. is the start of my favorite hour of the week.
“I appreciate people who are honestly seeking truth with conviction and humility,” said Jonathan Boston, who brings a perspective I can’t relate to. He’s black. I’m not. I struggle to keep up. “We can talk about nuanced, important topics while disagreeing yet growing as friends. And we laugh a lot.”
I’m not saying this to be confrontational or combative, but when’s the last time you had an argument that didn’t make you want to throw your phone? When was the last time you had a disagreement where you walked away satisfied, not seething? Find some to argue with. Then listen.
“The environment of trust creates the ability for confrontation without defensiveness – most of the time,” said Andy McDonald. “The fact that we are friends, genuinely care for one another, and laugh with each other gives it a natural and comfortable feel.”
But see, here’s the deal. We didn’t start as friends. We started as people who just happened to sit together. We argued about what God thinks of homosexuality and we argued about Mayfield grabbing his junk. In the same day. Probably. You don’t become friends because you agree on everything. You become friends because you don’t have to.
“It’s truly enjoyable and cathartic for me,” Kingery said. “I like that we all trust each other, that we have each other’s backs when we are vulnerable.”
The new sports season is getting ready to start. Time to start the arguing. Grab a coffee. Here’s to another year of debate and being vulnerable enough to listen.