“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost.”
When I was little, I remember my Mom reading this story to me and my siblings as we sat around our dining room table for our morning ‘table time’ session we shared before we began our homeschool education that day. The lesson was about how costly even the smallest mistake can cost.
For those unaware, the ‘shoe’ being referenced was referencing a horseshoe; the small metal piece nailed into the bottom of a horse foot to prevent its hooves from cracking open when riding. Without a proper horseshoe, a horse will stumble/fall and cause its rider to go down along with it as it reels from the pain of a broken shoe. Imagine somebody splitting one of your fingernails right down the middle…
The blacksmith ran out of nails, so he didn’t attach the horseshoe properly to the horse. As a result, the horse went down in battle, and the knight on top of it as well. In those days, one knight could make or break the outcome of a battle, and a battle could make or break the outcome of a kingdom.
There are a lot of lessons to unpack in this proverb, and I think that the wisdom could be paired really well with one question:
Is a game of soccer worth playing if some of the players on the field die, similar to the Mesoamerican ballgame “ōllamalitzli” where players were sacrificed to the gods when the game was over.
Imagine this, you’re watching two teams furiously work to play the game, each aiming to put the ball through a small goal high up on the walls of the arena. When the game is over, the losers are lined up and taken to the top of a pyramid where their chest is stabbed with a sharp knife, and the priest would then reach his hand into their chest so that he could pull the heart out and hold it before the crowd.
In those days, the goal for the priest was to perform the action so quickly that the heart would still be beating when they held it in the air for the cheering crowd.
Does this sound barbaric to you? I think so.
Let’s fast-forward a few years to 2022 and travel to Qatar…the location for the 2022 World Cup.
Prior to construction, human rights organizations estimated the number of migrant worker deaths to number in the hundreds in the building of the World Cup stadium, and yet there was no outcry.
Now that the World Cup is said and done, the number of deaths caused by the construction of the stadium is between 400-500 workers, whose families simply received their body in a coffin and were provided nothing else.
The total number of migrant deaths caused by other construction related to the World Cup (hotels, restaurants, etc) has been calculated to be between 5,500-6,6500.
I want you to read that again, and ask yourself if a game of soccer is worth thousands of families losing a son, daughter, mother or father.
While the world cheered as two teams tried to kick a ball through a net, thousands mourned the loss of their loved ones. Thousands of children cried because their mommy or daddy wasn’t there to kiss them goodnight…or be there for the rest of their lives.
How does this make you feel about the price that we pay for sport?
There are a lot of things happening in our world right now that anger, confuse, upset or cause arguments. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself – what is the cost of a human life in our world?
What kind of a world do we live in when human lives are simply considered ‘collateral damage’ so that everybody else can go to a bar and cheer their favorite team on?
OLE OLE OLE!
Meanwhile, the funeral processions continue. I doubt that many of you remember much of this game, or even bring it up in your day-to-day conversation. However, as a result of this game, there are now thousands of children that will grow up without their parents.
In the spirit of ‘for the want of a nail’ I might also ask you – how many children will go unseen, unheard and unloved by their parents who religiously turn on their television set every weekend, paying attention to commercials, juiced-up athletes, news commentators and reruns of Friends?
When I was little, my parents made the decision to turn the television off. They didn’t think the juice was worth the squeeze when it came to the content being shown, as well as the time spent in front of the black box in our living room.
For most of my life, I have struggled to feel like I matter, or am good enough. As an adult now, I can now look back and realize that my parents were one of the first people to show me that I mattered…that I mattered more than my Dad watching his beloved Browns, or my Mom sitting down to watch talk shows. Instead, they loved us. They spent time with us, and they got off their asses to raise us off of ours.