Taking one for the Team

Jumpers for goal posts

Taking one for the team, but what if someone cheats?

In playing any sport or game one of the first things to learn is that there are rules. We then accept that rules are there for guiding, informing and enabling us to familiarise with the standard of the game, building balance between opposing teams or players. 

Chucking jumpers down to make goals on a makeshift pitch; the ‘rules’ are kinda agreed, they may be added to as the game progresses but the important thing is to get on with the game… 

Games provide competition, fun, excitement and camaraderie. Whether this is family fun or international competition; there are expected rules by which to play. This can be confusing to a family guest who is asked to play a board game that has ‘house rules’. (Which maybe just variations of the standard rules, written on the lid of the box!). If we extend this to other more competitive sport where money, prestige, and winning at all cost is integral to the ethos of the competitors and organisations; do ‘house rules’ apply? 

But, what if someone cheats?

With a surfeit of football on television and taking that sport as an example; it is not long in watching any game before the commentator says of a player who has committed a foul, who actually cheated: ‘He took one for the team’. As if this was an honour!

Is this similar to being told by the manager that a particular player takes the penalties; ‘You are to take the penalties’. He tells another, ‘You are my first sub’. And to yet another, ‘You take throw-ins’. Or you ‘You make all the fouls’.  

This might mean the player who has to ‘take one for the team.’ is also the player prepared to be booked or sent off more often. Does it provide a form of prestige, a form of honour, elevating the status of the player who can be ranked as great because of his actions? Is this acceptable cheating? 

The player is conscious of ‘taking one for the team’ when he makes that particular tackle, crucial to stopping a critical scoring opportunity. The player understands the consequences. Are the whole team implicated (Russian athletics). 

For commentators and pundits alike when a player has made a mistake that is costly, ‘he should have committed a foul and taken one for the team.’ In effect, he should have cheated.

We are obviously talking about a value based system; all games that have rules have a value based system. Essentially what we are doing is telling people to cheat. These might be decent enough people, brought up with family values, taking care of their own families, instilling the basis of human kindness and care for other humans. But in certain arenas they play a different game. This is a game where chance is eliminated, where skill, cunning and cheating have their place. Scruples and ethics are side lined, integrity and principles are marginal. The rule book is followed only if the ref is watching. ‘Taking one for the team’ is for the greater good. It implies that the crime is not so heinous; it was done for the good of the team; it allowed the overall goal to be achieved. 

I suspect whether it was for a personal goal or a corporate goal we have all strayed, hung our personal integrity, our ethics and principles on the peg and ‘taken one for the team.’ But what if we refuse to play to this set of rules, we wish to keep our integrity and self-esteem, have a set of ethics that cannot be compromised. ‘Taking one for the team’, would just never happen. This is the challenge faced by Christians throughout the world. Not bowing the knee to the ineffable. Let us make the comparison between two men.

Judas Iscariot: cheated and ‘took one for the team.’ End result, he died.

Jesus of Nazareth: never cheated, ‘took one for the team.’ End result: We live.

You are called upon by the King of Kings to hold onto what you represent as a Kingdom man in a place where ‘taking one for the team’ is seen to be more important than life’s Kingdom values.

Image Credit: Perry Grone