About a lack of pride, and therefore a lack of shame

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The other day, I was walking through the bookstore and ended up in the sports section.

Perusing the football biographies but deftly avoiding anything that shouted “Eagles” because I’m not a masochist, I found a volume I’d always meant to read: “When Pride Still Mattered.”

Its subject is arguably the greatest football coach of all time, Vince Lombardi. So I bought it, probably more because of the title than anything else.

Pride doesn’t seem to matter much these days.

After the Eagles completely humiliated themselves, their veteran players and the city that has stayed with them from gory to glory, I tuned into local sports talk radio. And it was good for my soul.

Around 9 a.m., just when I was having that second cup of coffee laced with cyanide, legendary Eagles linebacker Seth Joyner joined the show, and began to give his own critique of what had happened the night before.

I didn’t understand a lot of what he was saying, because as I mentioned before, I’m not about to win a sideline gig for ESPN as their first female diversity hire, i.e. short aging woman.

But something that he said really struck me in the solar plexus, and reminded me of why I bought that Vince Lombardi book.

Joyner said that the players today lacked a sense of “accountability,” a word that you really don’t hear much anymore.

He was talking about how players, either young or older, needed to be called out publicly when they weren’t performing up to par when they were letting their team down when they were just going through the motions.

I’m paraphrasing here, but the whole point of his Shakespeare-like soliloquy was that the performance displayed by the Eagles was not just embarrassing, it was shameful.

The difference between embarrassment and shame is that the former is something that effects how you appear to others, and the latter is what you do to yourself.

Embarrassment is what you see reflected in the eyes of other people when you fail, shame is what should look back at you from the mirror.

Joyner was saying that people aren’t capable of feeling shame any longer.

There is no sense that we have done anything wrong or if there is, we have an immediate excuse. There is more personal deflection of guilt and culpability than there is of misfired footballs.

There are always exceptions, of course, and some of them showed the content of their character. The old veterans like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham really showed up to salvage a bit of their honor, and the much-loved Jason Kelce looked like a deer in headlights on the field.

That lost look indicated that he could not even understand what was happening, and why this once proud team had simply rolled over and died at the hands of a much less talented team.

But they were the exceptions to the motley rule.

I don’t need to go into details because this is not a sports column but suffice it to say that the older you were, the more shame you felt.

The younger ones just shrugged their shoulders and said, with their bodies, what many of us were saying with a few choice four letters at home.

Pride and shame go hand in hand. They are the mirror image of each other. If you have no pride, you are incapable of feeling shame.

And in any case, you have no honor.

Vince Lombardi understood that, as did many of the men and women who came from his generation.

If you know that you will be able to cash your paycheck regardless of the quality of the work you perform, why should you even make an effort?

You can extend this theory to the whole idea of empathy.

If we empathize with the drug addicts in Philadelphia and try and feel their pain but we don’t consider the horrors that they are inflicting on the innocent residents of the neighborhood, we are not being compassionate.

We are being cruel. This idea that we have to excuse people when they fail and continue to give them second and third and fourth chances will only guarantee their failure.

We owe them more than just throwing up our hands or worse, giving them a warm embrace and allowing them to be eternal prodigal sons.

This might seem an exaggeration, triggered by the acrid taste of a lost championship, but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now.

The Eagles debacle just reinforced my belief that contrary to the Lombardi book, pride no longer matters.

Feel free to prove me wrong in an email.

Copyright 2024 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].

Christine Flowers is a Philadelphian who loves the Eagles but can leave the cheesesteaks. She writes about anything that will likely annoy the majority of people, and in her spare time practices immigration law (which is bound to annoy at least some people.)