Today we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And everyday we celebrate his work, his goals, his dreams. Most people are familiar with Dr. King’s hope for a society in which we are judged by who we are at our core (our character) and not by some superficial element of how we look (the color of our skin). We are fundamentally the same and should have respect for that idea.
We were thinking about how that idea and Dr. King’s messages resonate in the world of sports. There are so many ways. Sports, for the most part, is a meritocracy. The way you look, the people you know, the country you come from has no bearing on whether that shot you take on a basketball court will go in. It will depend on your skills, borne from your effort to be the best you can be.
We took it a step further and looked at Dr. King’s most famous phrase, “I have a dream.” By breaking down the elements of the transcendant statement, we can further appreciate how society, including sports, can best direct its efforts.
“I” – Dr. King did not generalize here and say “we have a dream” or “people can dream.” He was very clear. “I.” This proclamation of identification is a right possessed by me, by you, by everyone. Each person has a right to be recognized, to be respected, to have their ideas heard, their dreams be fulfilled.
“Have” – Dr. King was claiming ownership. “Have.” We each want to possess things, some material, much intangible. I would like to have a house, a car, and other wordly possessions. However, I really want to have happiness, good health, a loving family, great friends, etc. It is not enough that these ideas exist. Each of us has a right to possess or “have” these things. And with that possession comes responsibility, responsibility to cherish it, to sustain it, share it, and ideally, make it available to others.
“A” – Dr. King did not have “the” dream. It was not one dream. It was “a” dream, one of many. While the dream he talked about was one of great importance, it is but one. And that is because life offers so many great possibilities, so many opportunities to better ourselves, to achieve things big and small, to help others, etc. Why limit ourselves to one dream? By using “a” and not “the” or any other limiting term, we can assume that Dr. King, like the rest of us, had many dreams, personal and for others. And that is the blessing of life, that we can aspire for, and achieve, so much.
“Dream” – Dr. King used one of the most uplifting words in the English language. When we dream we aspire, long for, wish; we are encouraged, motivated, driven, inspired, uplifted. We see things beyond the here and now, giving us something in which to find comfort, both in the idea and the possibilities inherent in that idea. Dreams are possible and Dr. King was making his dream known to millions for he saw its potential and the great probability that it could be achieved. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was surely possible.
When it comes to sports, each of these words, and the phrase itself, are familiar. Yes, there is no “I” in team, but there is in initative, inspiration, and victory. We claim ownership of goals, wishes, hopes, yes, dreams, from the time we are little kids to adulthood, whether that adulthood has us playing professionally or just for fun. Sports is very much about content of one’s character and not the color of one’s skin. The only color we should care about is that of our uniform or that of our favorite team. We are not so small-minded to dispossess someone of their opportunity in life to achieve whatever they have set out for themselves and for others. Much like a coach, Dr. King was setting out a vision for himself and for others. And much like players on a team, it is our job to execute.