Powerball and Air Balls

powerball oddsairball

                                                                                                                                            Of course there won’t be any poor persons among you…don’t be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward your poor fellow Israelites. To the contrary! Open you hand wide to them. – Deuteronomy 15:4, 7-8 (CEB)

And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. – Matthew 5:29 (CEB)

In case you haven’t been connected to the world over the last week, the Powerball jackpot reached an unprecedented 1.6 BILLION dollars on Wednesday (yep, billion with a B). Leading up to the drawing, there were posts all over Facebook about sharing the winnings with whoever shared their post. Countless work and neighborhood pools have been set up to purchase more tickets and share any winnings. Community formed over the possibility of so much money.

Three people beat 1-in-292.2 million odds[1] to take a 3-way share in the jackpot. “The lump-sum cash value of the jackpot was $930 million. Split three ways, each winner would start with $310 million. They’ll still need to pay 39.6% in federal income taxes on their prizes. After giving Uncle Sam his share, each will take home $187.2 million.”[2] It’s not quite $1.6 billion but that’s still a lot of money.

The winners haven’t come forward yet – it takes time to set things up with your lawyer. But people are already celebrating and feeling like a winner. Those who live in the towns where the three winning tickets were sold are sharing in the glory:

When word spread that a winning ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, hundreds of people who won’t get a dime basked in the glory anyway, many taking selfies with the store clerk on duty because, well, why not? “I’m very proud that the ticket was sold here,” the clerk, M. Faroqui, told local newspaper the San Bernardino Sun. “I’m very happy. This is very exciting.”

“I’d say good for you,” Demi said, braving the early morning chill to walk into the Driftwood Plaza Publix to check his ticket for other possible winnings. “I bought two tickets here and two at a convenience store. I did the one Powerball number,” he said chuckling. Others were also excited. One worker was overheard saying to another, “it happened here.” [3]

There was another ball in the news this week, but this one might have escaped your attention if you don’t live in Wisconsin or follow high school sports.

In December, the WIAA sent a letter to member schools discussing the WIAA’s sportsmanship fundamentals, such as “Air ball,” “Scoreboard,” “You can’t do that,” and “Overrated.” Apparently the intent was to reinforce the WIAA’s guidelines on fan chanting as the basketball season moves into full swing. An excerpt from the document:

As we reviewed the fall tournaments and the sportsmanship evaluations and observations, we want to address concerns with a noticeable increase in the amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/ or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.

Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school’s team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response in not acceptable sportsmanship.[4]

To the casual observer, this may seem reasonable. But the backlash has been incredible. Most responses complain that the WIAA has gone too far.

WIAA Censored


Screenshot 2016-01-14 16.25.26

The WIAA has since responded.

WIAA no new rules

Confession time: I’m that person who feels bad for the other team – especially the seniors – when they lose in the playoffs. And even though I feel bad for my boys’ teams when they lose – especially a game they should have won – I also celebrate in my heart for the other team. I’m not a Vikings fan, but I feel bad for Blair Walsh, who missed what would have been the game winning, play-off advancing field goal. Some first graders felt the same way and sent Walsh encouraging letters and pictures. Luckily public opinion has moved this way, since Walsh didn’t just receive criticism: he also received death threats.


In both the Powerball and Air ball, community forms. In one, it is a celebration of prosperity and honor. In the other, it is intending to shame. Neither are healthy forms of community.

I’m sure there will be drama that plays out between the winners and family and friends – and even complete strangers. But for right now, a sense of community and oneness exists. Now this isn’t real community. While living in the same town or buying a ticket from the same store may help you to feel a part of the excitement, this is the only thing that ties them together. And it won’t last.

A quick chanting of air ball isn’t going to shame anyone. But chanting it every time thereafter the player takes a shot is meant to shame and humiliate. Chanting “scoreboard” to another school that you are beating 49-0 in football, isn’t good sportsmanship. Our teenagers are creative – certainly they can come up with something better. Excessive taunting may form community for the fans but it does so at the exclusion of others. It creates community by putting another community down.

Sometimes it’s the star that shoots the air ball and maybe they can handle the shaming. Or it’s a professional who gets paid to take the good with the bad. But in high school sports, it’s just a regular kid who struggles with all the same stuff your kids struggle with. And probably even more if they are playing varsity sports. Varsity sports include off-season conditioning and Saturday practices. In football, it’s a week of conditioning in July and two- and three-a-day practices in August. For basketball, it’s often tournaments over holidays and school breaks. Baseball goes on for most of the summer. And if you play in club sports, these could last all year and on weekends.


If you [plural, here and throughout] listen carefully to these case laws and follow them carefully, the LORD your God will keep the covenant and display the loyalty he promised to your ancestors…You will be more blessed than any other group of people. – Deuteronomy 7:14 (CEB)

The Bible tells us over and over that we live and die as a community. The honor of one is the honor of all. The shame or sin of one, affects all. In our society today, we read these passages as a singular “you.” We can’t understand why anyone else should care what we do. We can’t understand why it matters when we hate or exclude others based on our beliefs.

But it does matter.

We’re in community whether we like it or not and our individual actions and choices matter.  Go ahead and feel like a winner and take a selfie with the store clerk because you live in the same towns as the Powerball winners. Take pride in your town’s excellent schools, or sports, or parks, or accomplishments. Consider yourself on the local high school team when they win a state championship.  But as an individual and a community remember the responsibility of hospitality – for both the one who offers and the one who receives.

And shame is not the responsibility – or right – of either.




[1] http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/01/14/powerball-thursday/78779006/, accessed January 14, 2016.

[2] http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/14/news/powerball-winnings/, accessed January 14, 2016.

[3] http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/01/14/powerball-thursday/78779006/, accessed January 14, 2016.

[4] http://www.leadertelegram.com/News/Front-Page/2016/01/14/Fan-backlash-nbsp.html, accessed January 14, 2016.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.