Here's a small story about a high school soccer team and its accumulation of red cards. This is not a headline grabber when our media outlets are focused more on the sensational - Virginia lacrosse player, Yeardley Love's murder - for instance. But I'm not ready to tackle the weighty moral, judicial, psychological, and social issues that this homicide has raised. I think we all need a little time before we can begin any sort of rational analysis of that tragedy.
So anyway, this is a story out of a high school in Iowa where the boys soccer team is banned from post-season play because they received too many red cards during the season. While the article doesn't go in to great depth, it appears as if the coach and athletic director are not battling this decision. In an unusual acceptance of the importance of behavioral guidelines, the coach states that he is disappointed in his young team. No one is arguing that the league rule is unfair. The coach does make a statement that his team does not want to be known as the the kind of team that gets five cards. That kind of statement, which is repeated in many forms by individuals and teams who firmly state that they're "not that kind of player/team", is a fascinating one. Its premise is that there ARE players and team that are "that kind of player/team." Is that argument at all based in a belief that life is simpler than it really seems? Do we deep down believe that there are "bad" people and "good" people? That when we stray from the rules or make missteps, we desperately need others to know that we're not "bad" people - just "good" people who broke a rule? This inner conflict for those who have strayed is, in some ways, a useful reaction. It is a manifestation of the tension between how we think others are seeing us and how we want them to see us in a moral context. It's a compulsion that can force us to re-examine our ethical standards if we use it as a catalyst to look inward and self-reflect.
So here's hoping that this is the learning season for these boys from Iowa. I would be heartened to see an example of individual and group development that results in fewer red cards and a reputation as being a "good" team next year. But if that happens, it probably won't make the news. I'm content to hope.