Friday, November 23, 2012

An Ode to Swaggy P (or, Why You Aren't Defined by Weakness)

by Ben Howard

Most people think that sports fans watch sports because of the games. They think that the most interesting stuff that happens in the sports world is the stuff that happens on the court or field. I guess that's probably true for most fans, and to a large extent it's true for me as well.

However, as I've matured as a sports fan I've become more and more interested in the players themselves. In particular, I'm nearly obsessed with the more comical players. My current fascination revolves around Philadelphia 76ers guard Nick Young aka Swaggy P.

Why, you might ask, am I fascinated by a backup guard on a mediocre basketball team that has no relation to my regular rooting interests (I'm an Oklahoma City fan)? Well, let me tell you about Nick Young. First, Nick consistently refers to himself in the third person with his own self-given nickname Swaggy P. Not only does he refer to himself this way, he also requests that his teammates and coaches call him that as well. Please picture someone your father's or grandfather's age giving serious directions to someone 40 years younger and calling them Swaggy P. It's amazing isn't it?

Also, Nick has a certain style of play that can make him both endearing and infuriating. Nick plays offense. That is to say, while some players play basketball which includes both defense and offense, Nick plays offense. Also, while playing offense, Nick shoots. Other players pass or set screens or rebound as well as shooting, Nick shoots.

While it would be easy to dismiss Swaggy as a bad basketball player because of all his limitations and deficiencies (defense and non-scoring plays are an important part of basketball), it would completely overlook his strength of scoring pretty much whenever he feels like it.

Nick Young is amazingly talented at getting his shot and scoring. That's not a skill that's easily acquired and that makes him valuable, even if he has his flaws. You don't want him to be your best player, in fact, you probably don't want him to start, but he has an obvious strength that can help your team win.

Most people are like this. Very few in this world have the all-around talents of a LeBron James or Michael Jordan or whatever other superstar you want to name. Yet everyone has strengths if we only put them in the position to utilize those strengths instead of focusing on their deficiencies and inadequacies.

Sometimes we focus so much on finding a superstar that we overlook the necessary work of putting people in place to succeed. We vote for a president in hope of a savior when the solutions to our world's problems are already in place if we could only deploy them appropriately. One person cannot do everything by themselves, they cannot be responsible for everything.

Likewise, in churches people rally around a priest or pastor without realizing that they, the members of the congregation, possess the strengths necessary to make the church stronger and that a priest or pastor can't do it alone.

I'm fascinated by the narrative of Nick Young because it's the narrative of the people. Flawed, perhaps deeply, but still valuable and useful if put in a position to succeed.

Nick Young also fascinates me because he's so confident at what he does, thus the whole Swaggy P persona. He doesn't focus on the fact that he isn't the teams best player necessarily because he is the best at being Nick Young. He's the best Swaggy P he can be.

While it's healthy and helpful to recognize our faults and our flaws. We need to know our weaknesses, but we can not, we must not, focus all of our attention on them. I can't take another status update or tweet of someone saying that they're just a sinner saved by the grace of God. You are not “just” a sinner, you are a human created in the image of God with skills and talents and purpose. You may not be your own version of perfection, but that does not mean that you don't fit into God's version of it. You may be a sinner, but you are always more than that. God knows that, so should you.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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