Calling Audibles Part X: Dear Haters–An Open Letter

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… Do unto others as you would have them do to you.  ~Luke 6

Dear Haters,

You don’t know me.  And you might prefer not to get to know me.  I might be a threat to one of your favorite past times:  hating the football coach or player of your choice.  Now you also might hate an Athletic Director or maybe even a Chancellor in the case of UNC football’s current situation.  

I am pretty sure you know who you are, haters.  Just in case, if you answer yes to one of more of these questions, you may indeed be a hater:

  1. You are a regular user or maybe even creator of a www. fire fill in the blank with a coach’s name .com website
  2. You boo your own team at games when they do something you don’t like.
  3. You have cheered when a player has gotten hurt before
  4. You use Twitter to criticize the coach or player you hate during games
  5. You participate in internet sports chat using a fake name and talk about the the stupidity of the object of your hate
  6. You regularly yell about how much you hate fill in the blank in stadiums, sports bars, and/or other places where sports fans gather
  7. You actually believe deep in your heart that you could do a better job than the object of your hate at their job.      OR
  8. You believe your life would improve in quality if fill in the blank with name of a coach was fired.

The first thing I want to get straight with you, haters, is that I do not hate you.

In fact, I would really like to know more about you.  Do you have a family?  What kind of work do you do?  How long have you been a football fan?  What position did you play when you played football?  Have you thought about going into coaching?  What kinds of things do you enjoy doing?  How do you feel when you get home from a football game?  Do you tend to be angry at family members, co-workers, or neighbors, too, or is it just football coaches and players?  Do you enjoy the hating or do you wish things could be different between you and fill in the blank of the coach/player you hate?

I know some in the football family who simply believe you are nuts.  I, myself, believe in your full humanity.  And I wish we could interact with each other on that basis.

I do not like hearing your hate, and I do not believe the things you say.  You do not define what’s real and what’s not.  I know there are those who know better.  So, I don’t wish for a way to change your mind.  But I do worry about your heart, your health, and your wellbeing.

Hate is poison.  Hate is destructive.   Being so filled with hate toward anything is like breathing in a little asbestos every day.  The little dose won’t kill you, but the cumulative effect can be devastating.  Hate literally hurts your heart—and I am talking about your physical heart—the one you are counting on to keep you alive every day.  And hate isn’t good for your brain either—the one you need to help you navigate this big, sometimes confusing, always diverse world.

Hatred is a toxic emotion.  It comes from a place of mistrust. It comes from a place of hatred itself. Hate breeds more hate.  I sometimes wonder what the original source of your hatred is, haters.  Have you been so hated?  Were you raised on hate?  Is there somewhere in the world where you have seen hate be an effective coping strategy?  Where did your hate get its traction in your life?  From whence does it come?

You should know, haters, that there was a time in my life when you all really use to get to me.  I could feel the anger well up in me during football games when I would hear the venom being spewed.  And I found myself thinking about all the things I would like to say to you to set you straight.  I had statistics to quote. I had stories to tell.  I’ll admit, I even had my fists clenched ready to swing a pretty good punch.

It didn’t take long for me to notice how much joy you were taking from me.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that getting sucked in to your hatred is a black hole—a place with no substance, with no firm ground, with nothing but a vortex of diminished returns.  So, I decided to let you have your hate.  I decided to let go of caring about you and your distorted reality.

These days I am in another place I guess.  I do not need to set you straight, but I still wish we could all find a better way to be.  You see my life’s work is about healing.  I have been on a healing path for much of my life.  We all are really.

Mine has been a path that has traveled from my own experience of being raped as a teenager.  There were many crossroads in my healing journey where I could have taken the road of hate—hate for my perpetrator, hate for all the people who stood by and watched things happen and didn’t help me, hate for a world where people are violent and so very brutal toward each other.   As deep as my wounds are from sexual violence, the disease I would contract from turning to hate would be much more deadly.

I thank the loving presence of the Divine One who has walked along with me for keeping me from the ravages of hate.   And that same One calls me to tell you, haters, that I bless you.  Even when it’s hard, I pray for you.  I forgive you for the hurtful things you say about people that I love and care about.    And I want you to know that your hate does not define my world.  I know the truth—you don’t get to define that for me.  And I want you to know that I look forward to the day when your hate does not define your world either.

What if you haters called an audible of your own—what if you tried learning more about the sport you love and the person you hate?  What if you stopped yourself the next time you were going to put your hate out there in the world and tried a play you may not have practiced much:  enjoy the game and look for something to cheer about even when things are not going your way.  That’s a formation that could change the world!

Peace to you,

Marcia



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23 responses to “Calling Audibles Part X: Dear Haters–An Open Letter”

  1. paula gilland says:

    Thanks for this Marcia..Paula

  2. Ben M says:

    Mrs Shoop,

    Many thanks for posting these perspectives. In today’s world, it has become far too easy for us to forget the fact that college athletics is ultimately about educating and developing young people to be successful in their future endeavors (whether that be in sports or another career path).

    During my professional career, I got to experience some of the same pressure, criticism, cynicism, and high stress that you and others are going through today. Sometimes it is tough to stay grounded and consistent with your values and faith.

    As a native Tar Heel and two time graduate of UNC, and participant in a “minor sport” at Chapel Hill, I love Carolina sports as much as anyone. But, I have always tried to keep my enthusiasm for winning balanced with a realistic belief that ultimately the value of the athletic experience in Chapel Hill is more than how many wins you have. Many would say that I am far too idealistic in today’s big time college athletic environment. So be it.

    My best wishes to you and your family in the future. I hope that whatever happens turns out to be a positive step for all of you.
    I also want to thank you, your husband, all of the coaching staff, and their families for all that they have done to help develop all those who are participating in sports at UNC.

    Once again, thank you for pulling back the curtain and allowing us to see some of the real world of life in the college athletic world.

    Best regards,

    Ben M

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Ben,
      Thank you for reading and for your helpful comments. I think your “idealism” is more than that–it is a constructive perspective on something that millions of people are passionate about. Sports of all kinds, not just football, have a higher purpose than just winning. And those are the places and spaces in which sports can truly make the world a better place.
      John has loved coaching at UNC. There is so much great about this place. The players that come to UNC are wonderful young men and their commitment to doing well at football is part of what helps them become responsible, productive citizens of the world. I know that’s hard for some people to accept and understand. But we have found it to be true with the players he coaches here. We will forever treasure those relationships and the privilege of being a part of these young mens’ lives.
      Thank you for being such a positive voice and for your best wishes. Our best wishes to you and your family.

  3. Don says:

    Wow! Your letter brings back some memories!

    I don’t know that everyone who is associated with coaching goes through these things, but we have shared similar experiences in our families. I know that my wife and family have suffered through trying to defend me and my role as a coach.

    One thing that I believe deeply in, is that I need to stay in control of my own emotions. I cannot allow the thoughts and actions of others to dictate my reactions. I cannot accept getting angry because someone else says or does something foolish, no matter how foolish they are. It takes effort and it takes courage, but in the end, I want to be in control of my own feelings.

    Your letter portrays the same feelings that I know my family has experienced. Although we share a coaching related experience, I know that hate and hateful actions affect people in many walks of life. I have found that trusting the relationships that I have with God, my wife, and my family have been the most important factors in helping me deal with the haters. I can always find solace, if I trust.

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Don. I like the way you talk about your own emotional sovereignty. I think that is a great lesson for life in general–not just for football. Being in control of your emotions takes practice and it takes being grounded in an ultimate source of love that isn’t diminished or destroyed by hate. My life as a pastor as well as a coach’s wife has taught me to the importance of staying in contact with that Ground. A good friend put it this way “stay close to the vibrations of love.” I am ever thankful for that love! Thanks again for your great comments.

  4. Karen Harp says:

    One Word – AMEN.

  5. Janet Beatty says:

    I have wondered, at times, if the relative “safety” of the athletic arena has become an outlet for anger, frustration, and all the emotions that come with living in a world which we cannot control. It would be in appropriate to scream and yell in the bus or subway, and we hope that emotional venting isn’t happening in the home (i.e. kicking the dog, smacking the kid). Most people wouldn’t let their frustrations out at work (and still keep their jobs!) either. But somehow when they enter the stands (regardless of the sport, professional or college) completely inappropriate behavior is looked on as just part of the sport. I am not sure that the hate is directed at a specific person as much as it is at our own frustrations at the losses and disappointments in our own lives. Just a thought, from my limited time in the stands of the sports arenas.

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Janet. I think you are on to something about where the hate is coming from–from a place of frustration about the bigger picture, about life in general. And I agree, that the hate can’t really be about the person that haters decide to hate. They don’t know the person or have a realistic view of the person so it can’t really be about them.
      Unfortunately the fact that they choose a person toward which to channel the hate sure does make it feel personal sometimes. I use to wonder why we got prank phone calls in the middle of the night even when the team John was calling plays for won–then I figured out it was because we didn’t make the point spread. And when people would roll down their windows in traffic to make sure we heard their feelings about John, which usually included multiple f-bombs, it could feel personal. I wonder if the bigger question is: do haters just need somebody to hate? Is there a way to let the stadium to be a place to work out things we can’t in the rest of our lives without hate being a part of it? Especially hate that is directed toward someone supposedly on “your own team”?

  6. Aleta Ash says:

    Dear Marcia,
    Thank you for this thoughtful and caring commentary. . I am not a sports fan so I have always had a difficult time understanding why people get so upset and disraught about a team losing. I always thought games were supposed to be fun. To see such villification and hatred is disturbing. As Christians I think it is important that we not get “caught up in it” and that we recognize its harmful consequences. God bless you. .

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Aleta. I do think it is hard to relate to the passion that sports elicit for those who are not sports fans. I have my theories about why it matters so much. I hope you’ve been able to read my post called “fan-wise.” It has a little more detail there about this curious dynamic. I think you are correct that, as Christians, any kind of hate must be an emotion we intentionally work to not kindle or feed. It can take some practice to rid ourselves of hate sometimes when hate is so close at hand all around us.

  7. Beth W. says:

    Marcia,

    This series is tremendous. Your discussions of both the diseases and the blessings of college football are profound and insightful. I’ve been feeling really negatively about college athletics in general lately (big-time and not so big-time), especially in light of the horror at Penn State, and I’ve been almost willing to damn the whole enterprise. But your deeply engaged and compassionate perspective has helped me to see more clearly the complexity of each situation, and to admit that the harder work that you have described so eloquently here is a better course for all involved. And of course, so much of what you write is applicable to so many of the contexts in which we live. As I was reading through all of the posts today, I thought, “She should write a book about this,” and I was glad to see in the comments on one of the posts that you are in fact doing so! I very much appreciate your prophetic voice as a college football insider and as a theologian.

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you for reading, Beth. I very much appreciate that you are exploring these ideas. It is a time of massive changes and profound challenges in the world of college football. I am praying that a “more excellent way” can be charted. In the meantime, I am going to keep writing. I hope you’ll keep reading and commenting!

  8. Rusty says:

    Good Day Mrs. Shoop. I just wanted to thank you for your words. Im a UNC Grad and avid supporter of our athletic programs. I am also a Baptist Minister and your insightful words about hate, especially directed at sport menat quite abit to me. I would like to share your words with my Church on Sunday if I may.

    I sponsor each year a kid to the UNC Football Camp. I had the pleasure to meet your husband there year before last. He was very kind to me and we had a very nice conversation. I knew then he was a very special man and I now know from reading your blogs that you guys are a very special family with Christ as the center of your life.

    Just wanted to say Thank you for your writings, expressions of faith and sharing your thoughts with people. Thanks to your husband for his faith, kindness to me and dedication to a school and football program I love.

    God Bless Your Family,
    Rusty

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Rusty, for reading and commenting and for your ministry. I would be honored if you would share my words with your congregation. I pray that they will some how be a blessing to them. Thank you for your generosity in sponsoring a child for the UNC Football Camp each year. I know meeting you was a blessing for John as well. Our son enjoyed being in the camp this year, too. Thank you for all the good work you do, Rusty. Blessings on your ministry, to your family, and to you. Peace of Christ be with you.

  9. Homer Duncan says:

    Dear Mrs. Shoop

    While not much of a ball player myself, my professional career has caused me to work with many in athletics including Olympic medal winners, professional football, basketball baseball and hockey players, athletic directors including some in the ACC, head and assistant coaches with college and professional teams, and in a couple of cases college conferences and professional teams.

    My first point is that I am a Tar Heel who cherishes my degree and my experiences at the University. I support our teams through my presence in good times or bad. My attitude about coaches is the same as my attitude about preachers—love the one I have and support them to the extent possible. The past couple of years have saddened me deeply.

    Your series of articles has done an outstanding job of discussing a number of the underlying issues that trouble all of us who truly love athletics and believe they are part of the fabric of a great university. Your insight is clear to any reader and I appreciate the great writer’s craft in your words. I wish that such a dialog had taken place as an ongoing part of normal operations of our athletic program.

    I truly am sorry that so many innocent kids, coaches and their families will suffer from this and likely will again and again as the process is repeated. I admire your forthright approach and wish you and your family the best possible future.

    My second point is that I strongly agree with a comment you made in one of the articles. Essentially it was that your husband was either a genius or an idiot depending upon how the play/game turned out while your view was that neither extreme was correct.

    My view is that your husband is a very bright and respected coach that is a credit to his profession. Like all of us, he could have better skills at some things and he excels at others. One has to look at the value of the whole and he is a valuable coach taken in that context. So please thank him for those of us who like our preachers and our football coaches even when we might disagree on a call or two every now and then.

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Homer. I appreciate your perspective and your approach very much. It sounds fair minded and it sounds like it comes from a grounded, genuine place. Thank you for taking the time to talk about it and share it here. I feel sure your words will be a blessing to others. I shared your thoughts with John, too, and he thought your perspective sounds solid and good. He appreciates you and your support. I hope you will keep reading and commenting as we all continue to find our way through this situation here. There are many, many stellar alumni of UNC–like you, who we give thanks for during this difficult time. Thanks again, Homer. Blessings to you and yours.

  10. Lyn Hawks says:

    Marcia,

    Another inspired post. All the signs say that the world of athletics needs your blog and your book!

    Lyn

  11. Mindy Adams says:

    Marcia,

    These blogs are gifts to me and to the football community and to anyone who has ever cheered for a team in any sport. They contain life lessons which will make our communities of family, faith, football (or whatever community!) stronger. Your wisdom and kindness and grace show through every post. May we all have the wisdom to listen to what you are saying.

    Thank you!
    Mindy

  12. Sam Harp says:

    Marcia,
    I really enjoy reading “Calling Audibles”. My wife, Karen, told me of your writing. So right on. The internet chat sites attack us in high school as well. There was a time, I would have liked to punch some of these “haters” out.. I still do sometimes, but ofcourse I don’t. I wouldn’t be any better than the “haters”, if I did. These people must really be miserable and have a very low self-esteem. Attacking coaches behind a fake name must make them feel better. I have coached over 2,000 kids in my career and the rewards far outweigh the negatives. I would like to think I have been significant in their lives in helping them learn life lessons. Oh yea, and win some games along the way. I look forward to the rest of you writings. Take care Marcia.
    Sam

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Coach Harp, for reading and commenting. I know for a fact you have had a impact on many, many lives through your coaching–and you’ve won LOTS of games in the process. I think you are right that we need to keep our focus on the “why” in this coaching life and be intentional about not getting lost in all the “what” and “how” that some people want to focus on so much. I hope you will keep reading and commenting, Coach. Your experiences and wisdom enrich the conversation so very much.
      Peace,
      Marcia


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