Someone pokes you in the eye, do you turn around and do the same thing right back to them?
If an athlete from an opposing team hurts your favorite player, seemingly intentionally, do you respond with off-color jeers and taunts?
Several Oklahoma City clergy recently shared their advice for the Oklahoma City Thunder players as well as their exuberant fans as the Thunder gets set to possibly contend with the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. A series with the Lakers brings with it another round of competition with Metta World Peace, the Laker formerly known as Ron Artest, who several weeks ago elbowed Thunder star James Harden in the head, causing a concussion.
The question of what to say to the Thunder and their fans stymied one local pastor, who said he is very familiar with the raucous atmosphere at sporting events. He tweeted his need for insight on just what to say in this high-octane situation.
“Just asked by The Oklahoman to provide some thoughts on how Thunder fans should respond to Ron Artest coming to town next week. Need wisdom!” the Rev. Ben Brammer (@benbrammer) tweeted.
Thursday, Brammer said he received good-natured feedback from his Facebook friends and Twitter followers who offered him their advice for the Thunder.
“Somebody said ‘I believe we all need world peace' and someone said ‘We should all wear helmets and flash the peace sign' and then somebody said ‘Just win,'” Brammer said. He said another person advised “Keep it classy, OKC.”
Brammer said he asked for insight because he wanted to say the right thing in the appropriate context.
“I wanted to temper my thoughts,” he said. “Metta World Peace, he's come a long way but changing our name doesn't change our hearts.”
Meanwhile, Scott Davidson, chairman of Oklahoma City University's philosophy department, said the playoff situation can be turned into a life lesson.
“It seems to me that it's a problem we experience in all facets of our lives,” Davidson said. “What to do with bad actors — people who display bad behavior. Do we ignore it and try to rise above it or do we get dragged into it and try to respond?”
Davidson said the Thunder has fostered an image of being a team that is very professional in their conduct and very clean “so they have a positive image.”
He said the focus should be on the positive, like the stellar play of Thunder stars like Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and not the negative like Artest, aka Metta World Peace.
“If we respond negatively, we let Ron Artest lower us. If you focus on him, you're going to lose. We've got to focus on the positive”
Davidson said it's important to note that people, particularly children, will be watching Thunder players and fans.
“It's OK to be angry about Ron Artest but we don't need to do the same thing he did. Kids see how we respond and they form opinions based on us.”
Here's what the clergy had to say:
Rev. Terry Bates, senior pastor of Faith Church, formerly known as Faith Tabernacle: Number one, it's one thing for the Lakers to get into your face, just don't let them get into your head! Number two, don't let what happens to you, happen in you! (You determine the PEACE within!).
Rev. Randy Faulkner, senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church: The Thunder need to concentrate on playing basketball, sans distractions. James Harden and his teammates have shown a lot of class in this situation. I hope our OKC fans will too. The other night, I heard Denver fans booing (Lakers star) Kobe Bryant every time he touched the ball. Now maybe that is the inalienable right of paying customers and a part of the fun of the NBA experience. But just maybe the best way to “win” in this particular situation is to win big over the Lakers and let our playing do the talking.
The Thunder have been performing like men among boys. They have generally shown maturity beyond their years. I hope they keep it up! Scott Brooks and Sam Presti are quietly leading by example.
Darrell Stetler II, senior pastor of Bible Methodist Church: I'm a competitor, but I'm a Christian first. In the spirit of loving your enemies, I think it would be great to see each Thunder player go out of his way to shake the hand of Metta World Peace before the game ... and then trounce the Lakers, of course. Let's not get crazy ...
The Rev. John Salem, senior pastor of St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church: I would advise James Harden not to feel pressured or compelled to turn the other cheek to Metta World Peace the next time around.
The Rev. Ben Brammer, senior pastor of Northwest Baptist Church: Players have led well. For the fans: 1. Maintain perspective; 2. Be a classy example to the young fans watching; 3. Booing may be fun but often antagonizes the visiting team to the point they use it as motivation. I know Ron Artest will.
The Rev. Mark Muncheow, senior pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church: Maybe this could be the theme Bible verse for the Thunder: Psalm 104:7 English Standard Version (ESV) “At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.” Let LA take flight and flee while they can!!!
The Rev. L.G. Parkhurst Jr., senior pastor of Stonegate Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Edmond: This week, my son Jonathan is attending the Oklahoma Special Olympics State Games in Stillwater playing golf, and as I reflected on your request while watching the competition here, I was reminded how the athletes, coaches, parents, and volunteers in Special Olympics demonstrate good sportsmanship consistently. The Special Olympics Oath is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Consistent with the spirit of Special Olympics, I would suggest a modified oath for all who enjoy playing and watching sports: “Let me win, but win or lose, let me act right in the event.” This modified oath would go a long way toward the prevention of many injuries and make the competition more enjoyable in my opinion.
Dave Evans, Highland Baptist Church, Moore: I guess if I was talking to a Christian player I think it's important for us to demonstrate the fruit of the spirit — love, patience, joy, peace, etc. It's not going to do us any good to try to retaliate. Just focus and be the best you can be and not worry about Metta World Peace. If those guys play the best they can, that will be the clearest message of all.