Kevin’s Conversations: Handling the Critics
He holds virtually every team career passing record as well as many single season records, too. While playing the most important position on the field during his eleven seasons with the team, McNabb helped lead the Eagles through one of their most successful periods in franchise history.
And yet, in Philadelphia at least, McNabb is often not fully appreciated for everything he meant to the Eagles and all his accomplishments. To the hard-core fan in fact, many times he is viewed more as a pain-in-the-butt nuisance than he is a sports hero to be revered.
To go in depth with all the reasons for this could get a bit long and tedious, especially for non-Philadelphia fans and non-football fans. So I’ll try not to overwhelm with detail while still trying to provide some understanding.
Day One of Donovan McNabb’s career as Philadelphia Eagle came on draft day of 1999. McNabb was announced before the crowd as the number 2 pick in the entire NFL draft to the Eagles and was booed lustily by a group of 30 rowdy hooligans who were rallied together by a loud-mouthed Philadelphia sports talk radio host. The group believed the Eagles should select Ricky Williams and were prepared to boo anyone picked by the team who wasn’t Williams. (Good thing the Eagles were smarter than this group in their player evaluations.)
Although it was only a small group of cretins and they weren’t even directly booing McNabb himself, it was still quite the rude welcome to Philadelphia. Donovan has repeatedly claimed that he has long forgotten about the booing and it’s water under the bridge. But his words and attitudes belie him. Despite the fact that McNabb says it doesn’t bother him anymore and it hasn’t for a long time, he displays a need to incessantly talk about it. Sometimes he will bring up the incident unprompted. Often in efforts to seemingly remind everyone how he was wronged or not given the proper credit for how good he was. If he was truly over it and it didn’t bother him, one would think he wouldn’t be apt to bring it up in conversation as regularly as he does and would just brush it aside without much comment when others brought up the subject.
And thus a pattern can be observed that extends well beyond the draft day booing episode. McNabb was a very good quarterback. But he didn’t reach the level of being an all-time great because of some shortcomings in his game and maybe even his personality. And while he received much praise for his success and accomplishments, in a sports-crazed culture and especially a tough sports-crazed town like Philadelphia, he also received criticism. Sometimes the criticism was fair and other times it was over-the-top and unwarranted. Unfortunately, McNabb frequently did not excel in handling the criticism, at least in the public arena.
He liked to promote himself as one with thick skin who didn’t let anything get to him. Yet at the same time he would bemoan the criticism he was getting and would complain about how undeserved it was. Meanwhile, in classic passive aggressive fashion, he would regularly criticize the fans or the media, or sometimes even his coaches or teammates. The criticism he was receiving would be laid at the feet of another. Because, you see, it was never really Donovan’s fault. Somebody else was to blame. Somebody was always out to get him. Real or perceived, he was always being slighted.
This pattern continued for years, even still to this day. So even though Donovan McNabb was the most successful quarterback in Philadelphia Eagle history, there is a tenable uneasiness by many Philadelphia fans in accepting him as a beloved franchise icon. For many of us, we want to like him, but the perpetual whining behavior in wanting to play the martyr and presenting himself as something he is not and deflecting blame onto others sure has been grating. So when McNabb’s name is brought up to a rabid Philadelphia sports fan, it is just as likely to be met with a roll of the eyes as it would be with the acclamations of a sports hero.
This is where I’m going – In our culture, Christianity (the traditional and conservative type anyway) is becoming increasingly marginalized. More and more of our beliefs and practices are becoming at best, politically incorrect, and at worst, despised and ostracized. There is certainly media (primarily radio and internet) that is biased conservatively and will often argue in defense of traditional Christianity and/or its ideals, but that does not stop mainstream media (primarily tv, newspapers, etc.) from heaping scorn upon traditional conservative Christians and their beliefs and actions.
Some criticism is well justified when considering the hypocrisy and arrogance and cover up of wrongs and abuses committed by Christians and their churches and organizations. Other criticism is decidedly undue and unfair. Most especially when we are standing for what is true and right.
But how do we handle it all? Do we humbly admit when we have been hypocritical or wrong on an issue or sinful in other ways? Or do we find a way to rationalize it and shift blame to someone else? Do we portray ourselves as something we are not, as almost being above sin and corruption?
What if it is not even us personally who have committed wrongs, but rather some of our leaders or organizations? Are we able to admit that they are wrong or do we stubbornly ignore the problems or even go to the lengths of proclaiming their righteousness and innocence despite evidence that would suggest otherwise?
What about the criticism that is unfair and unrighteous? What do we do about that? Do we regularly bemoan the liberal media who is always out to get us? Are we always looking for ways to point out how biased the media or our culture is against Christianity? Do we like to play the martyr card?
We have previously discussed on this blog how we are exiles in this land. And “this land” is pretty much any land until Jesus comes back to establish his kingdom. Jesus told us that they will hate us because they hated Him. The gospel is a stumbling block and foolishness to those who don’t believe.
Receiving attacks and criticism from the world should be more than expected. So how do we fare in receiving them? Do we reflect Christ’s meekness and righteousness? Or do we take the offense of the gospel and add on our own offense of whininess and belligerence and martyrdom-playing? Do we add an unnecessary layer of dislike that makes it even that much harder for the world to hear our message?
Lord, help us to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.