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Game Off!

For National Football League fans, the big game is over. While mostly a lackluster display of the sport, the match between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco Forty-Niners went into overtime. Some would say it was a nail-biter. Others, a barnburner. A few in the country would describe the event as an over-the-top, lavish, unnecessary waste of gabillions of dollars. But the bottom line is, it was just a game.

Even for non-sports fans, the language is familiar. In any manner of competition, friendly or otherwise, we might speak of putting on our “game face” while taunting our rivals, overtly or covertly, with the cry of “game on!” We drive away from a vehicle dealership claiming victory because we have “scored” a sweet deal. We might accuse another person of playing “head games” with us if we feel we’ve been deceived or manipulated. And with the development of video games, the concept of leisurely activity that has been around for thousands of years has burgeoned into a lucrative industry; “gaming” has become a thing.

There are those who would even consider life itself to be one big sardonic game. Some feel like bowling pins with no control over what rolls their way and knocks them over. Others might describe invisible cosmic powers vying for possession of us like chess pieces scattered all over this board called Earth. Certainly, much of literature (in every genre including movie scripts) is anchored by a theme of “good versus evil,” an anything-but-friendly competition between forces engaged in a battle on every scale: from influence over an individual’s mind to the allegiance of the peoples of a nation.

One of the hardest lessons humans struggle to learn is knowing when and to whom to say, “game off!” Social pressures do not dissipate when one graduates from high school. Managing aggressive impulses within oneself is only part of the battle. Choosing wisely is a lifelong course in survival. Self-destructive tendencies lurk behind the outward composure of many among us. Accepting one’s limitations is a mortal challenge common to everyone. The brief message against bullying that aired during the Super Bowl speaks the truth: it takes all of us. All of us standing together against violence and hatred and abuse. All of us desiring something more than mere survival for the planet and its inhabitants. All of us united in a chorus of voices proclaiming in the face of death-dealing destruction, “game off!” But will we? Is it that we are we content to have someone else make the call?

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