OK, a few weeks ago, a fifteen-year-old wrestler named Joel Northrup decided to forfeit a match instead of wrestling his opponent, Cassy Herkelman. He did it because his religious beliefs command him to not visit violence upon women.
This started a hurricane of indignation as people leveled any slander they could against the poor kid. Rick Reilly has some particularly vile things to say, filled with logical loopholes and strawmen so large and garish I am convinced the editor and the ombudsman must have been high, drunk, or on vacation.
Here are the facts:
He felt that his personal ethos was being violated.
He bowed out with grace and class.
He did not blame his opponent, society, or any other faceless group for his loss. He stood up, bowed out, and never looked back.
And maybe that last one is what most freaks out those people on FaceBook that made nasty comments about him: He took responsibility for his own beliefs, and then served them to the best of his ability. He did not demonize anyone, try to get a law passed to impose his will on others, and he forfeited graciously with these words:
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.”
I mean, can’t we agree that this is preferable? Isn’t that what we’ve been striving for since time began?
You can agree or disagree with his decision, but I think if more Americans lived with their own beliefs in such a fashion, content to allow their beliefs guide their own actions without necessarily forcing others to do the same, then the world would be a much better place. At the very least it would be more civil, and hacks like Rick Reilly would be put to work shoveling manure on a farm instead of shoveling this kind of crap onto ESPN.