Adversity Rob Zoino

The definition of adveristy according to Merriam-Webster, is a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune.

A common example of adversity in pop culture mostly occurs within sports:

  • Underdogs
  • Miracles
  • Comebacks
  • Cinderella stories
  • Upsets

Josh Hamilton

  • Former Major League Baseball Player
  • Suffered from heavy cocaine and alcohol addiction
  • 5x All-Star (2008-2012)
  • Awards: American League MVP (2010), American League Batting Champion (2010), 3x Silver Slugger Award

Adversity shown in film Rudy 1993

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." - St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9: 24)

Adversity connected to the works of Fiddes: “do not spend the night fearful of the morrow…man knows not what the morrow is like. God (is always) in his success” (p.115).

Robert Zoino

Dr. Olsen

Parables in Pop Culture

18 May 2018

Overcoming Adversity

The primary reason why I decided to take Parables in Pop Culture was because of the connection of theology being incorporated into everyday life. Throughout the course, the most common theme that appeared to me was adversity. This was primarily seen with the readings of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Stranger Than Fiction ,and in the works of Paul Fiddes. The theme of adversity itself is very common and can be connected in pop culture. Adversity itself can be seen primarily within films, television shows, sports, music, etc. The feeling of being able to overcome misfortune or failure through adversity is one of the best feelings a person can have.

Many people one way or another, have had to deal with some sort of difficulty throughout their lives. If you were to ask somebody to provide an example of what they have gone through in life, it can be just about anything. Life itself is no easy road; however, the way people overcome adversity can potentially lay the groundwork for a better future. The use of adversity in popular culture is widespread, primarily within the sports world. For many people, sports can be the easiest way in which they can relate to one another. Exchanging thoughts on favorite teams, players, and moments that all have impacted each specific sport. If one were to ask a young child “what they would want to be when they grow up?” some would most likely respond by saying “a professional athlete.” Some of the most thrilling experiences are often signs showing the athlete or team overcoming any sort of obstacles. This is what makes the games more interesting and likable to many people, because it never ceases to amaze them.

Even though every sport is merely a game, the attention that they all receive creates numerous role models for many people. Athletes are a great example of showing adversity, primarily because it teaches us at a young age never to give up on your dream. A passage from the book of Corinthians in the New Testament further supports this idea of not to give up. Both books of Corinthians are collections of letters sent by St. Paul, which were meant to convert people to Christianity. In one of his remarks, St Paul explains “do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it”. Obviously the bible is not centered around sports, but the message of wanting to achieve something is clearly shown. Regardless of how hard something might be, working for it is how we are able to achieve success. A child who’s dream is to one day become the best baseball player in history, is simply not going to be handed to that because it is what they want. That person has prove it to everyone and show how much they want it. The ending of St. Paul’s passage is a perfect way to explain why people fight for what they want.

Now in regards to an athlete showing this kind of adversity is Daniel “Rudy” Ruettinger. What makes his story interesting was the fact on how he was able to prove everyone wrong, when he wanted make his dream a reality. Some background on Ruettinger includes being diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, being denied by the University of Notre Dame three times, and being undersized in both height and weight. After being accepted to Notre Dame after his fourth try, Ruettinger was going to make the most of it. Even though he was told that he was not cut out to play football, Ruettinger’s critics were not going to get the best of him. The 1993 biographical film Rudy by David Anspaugh, specifically reflects on the hardships that Rudy Ruettinger had faced during his early life leading into his time at Notre Dame. One of the most unforgettable scenes from the film is when Rudy Ruettigner is contemplating on quitting the team. The reason for this is in large part thinking he will never earn the chance to play because of his size. The character “Fortune” is able to convince Rudy from doing this explaining that he has already been able to prove everyone wrong, by being able to not only attend, but graduate Notre Dame.

From a biblical standpoint, Fortune can be seen as St. Paul delivering his message to the Corinthians, explaining that in order to achieve something they have to work for it. The “prize” that Fortune explained to Rudy was not to play one football game for Notre Dame. The fact that Rudy was going to be able to graduate with a degree in Sociology from Notre Dame was a far more better accomplishment than trying to play a game. However, he also was able to convince Rudy not to quit the team knowing that through harder work he would one day get an opportunity. Ultimately Ruettinger is able to do this ending the game with a sack on the opposing quarterback and being carried off the field. The final scene from the film is one of the many examples of adversity that is shown throughout pop culture.

A much more recent athlete that was able to prove everyone wrong and make a comeback centers around former professional baseball player Josh Hamilton. In his early career Hamilton was selected as the first overall pick out of high school in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. However, being drafted at a young age and a low maturity level, led to many off the field issues, specifically drugs and alcohol. From 2001 to 2005, it was the worst time of Hamilton’s life. Due to his heavy drug use, he was suspended by Major League Baseball on several occasions, and made his chances of making it to the majors very little. Also Hamilton’s drug abuse eventually led to his wife kicking him out of their home. After that Hamilton stated that he thought of killing himself, and made about five attempts. It wasn’t until he was confronted by his grandmother to clean up his act in 2005. At that point he had lost over 50 pounds and his grandmother couldn’t even recognize him. With the support from his grandmother, wife, and a renewed faith in Christianity he began to take baseball by storm.

In 2007 Josh Hamilton was given a second chance to play baseball with the Cincinnati Reds and then being traded to the Texas Rangers. Over the next five years Josh Hamilton went on to become one of the most lethal hitters in all of baseball. During this five year period Hamilton received many accolades including the American League MVP award, Silver Slugger award from 2010-2012, and being named to the MLB All-Star game in five consecutive seasons. One of the most interesting stories during his prime years, was after the Rangers had won the American League Championship Series (which Hamilton was the MVP). Whenever you see a team celebrating a win during the playoffs, the stereotypical thing they do is shoot off champagne in the locker room. Still recovering from both alcohol and drugs, Hamilton decided to celebrate using ginger ale instead of champagne, in order to celebrate with the rest of his teammates. Anybody can make bad decisions in their lifetime, however it takes a bigger person to acknowledge his mistakes and work towards making a better life for themselves and others.

Josh Hamilton’s story can primarily be connected to the Jesus’ parable of the “Prodigal Son”. When we understand that a parable is an imaginary story to illustrate a spiritual point, we can quickly perceive that Jesus is using this account to teach us of God’s love for each of us. The prodigal son is described as a young man who wants his inheritance from his father and leaves the home. After spending everything he had and becoming homeless he returned to his father’s home asking to be a servant in order to have his father’s forgiveness. As we all know the parable ends with the father welcoming his son back into his family, forgiving all that had happened. Although both of these stories are different in regards to how they begin. They both experienced the same thing, hardships beyond belief to the point where they both lost everything. The way in which Josh Hamilton was able to come back and make a large impact in the baseball world, shows that the world is full of second chances. However, his second chance was not given to him because the world had felt sorry for him. Hamilton earned his second chance by taking it upon himself to change. Whenever someone might think of a professional athlete, they usually think of the money players get paid. Regardless of this stereotype, many athletes/coaches are seen as role models for many people in order to achieve success.

The theme of adversity can easily be connected to the course material that we have gone over throughout the class, specifically in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. This autobiographical graphic novel is based on the memories that occurred throughout Satrapi’s early life and her transformation to a young adult. At the very beginning of the novel Satrapi is able to revisit her early memories from the Iranian Revolution occurring from 1978-1979. This significant event greatly impacted Satrapi’s life in numerous ways with the institution of Sharia Law in Iran. The panel on the left provides a visual description of the early beginnings of Sharia law going into effect. The scene primarily focuses on the announcement of the new president of Iran closing of co-ed schools and with females being required to wear a veil. Sharia law itself is a fundamental religious concept that is directly applied to laws, specifically the total submission to the will of Allah. By the virtue of standards, Sharia law is correct way that Muslims should live according to the Quran. The visual description from the panel was only the beginning for Marjane’s search of self discovery.

The main reason why Marjane Satrapi had decided to write this novel was to allow her readers to see the firsthand accounts of an Islamic woman in Iran. Unfortunately women within Islamic culture even in today’s society are still looked down upon. This next panel is one of the many examples on how Marjane Satrapi overcame adversity in her life. The panel specifically recalls an event where all of the students were gathered to listen to the administration’s lecture on moral and religious conduct. The summarization of this lecture was to enforce the importance on how people should be behave and dress, specifically women. In a society such as Iran, standing up in protest of the authority is not anywhere the same as protesting here in the United States. What makes this panel significant to this paper’s them of adversity is the fact that it did matter to Satrapi. Unlike most people, even in western culture, she took a stand to defend what she believed in. It did not matter to her on whether or not she would be punished, in her mind she did the right thing by taking a stand.

The panel above can also be related to the HBO television series The Wire. Now the show is no where similar to the storyline of Persepolis, mainly because it deals with drugs and gang violence in Baltimore. However, the point of finding themselves is clearly related to a character named Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins. The character Bubbles is introduced into the show as a middle-aged man addicted to crystal meth and heroin. Now someone may ask “why in the world would I ever try compare a drug addict to Satrapi’s story?”. The reason is because of the way in which Bubbles had learned from his past mistakes throughout the series, eventually becoming clean and having a job. Early on in the series a scene shows that Bubbles has a sister, however, when asking her if he could stay to get back on his feet, she only allowed him to live in the basement. Also he was not allowed to come upstairs or she would call the police, because of his drug use. At first it seemed as though Bubbles was going to get clean, unfortunately he did not. It took until his friend/adopted son Sherrod died from an heroin overdose, that Bubbles swore to give up drugs.

At the beginning of season five, Bubbles is seen working for the Baltimore Sun and has been clean for over a year. One day one of the reporters working for the paper decided write a story about Bubbles’ past drug addiction and how he was able to overcome it. A year later the story is published and quickly spreads all throughout Baltimore. At this point Bubbles’ has been clean for a little over two years, and has gotten his life back on track. The final scene showing Bubbles in the series, is when he is welcomed back into his sister’s life. Being able to go upstairs to join his sister and niece for dinner. This scene is a perfect addition to adversity, and also as a comparison to Marjane Satrapi’s and Josh Hamilton’s story. Even though, it seemed as the show would progress that Bubbles would one day die of an overdose, his story is great example of how people overcome hardships.

Continuing on with the course material, adversity can also be taken from some of the works of Paul Fiddes. Fiddes’ Seeing the World & Knowing God is able to intertwine biblical passages into modern day literature, focusing on the importance of wisdom. One of the most important lines that stood out to me from Fiddes’ work was when he was describing the works from of Amen-em-Opet. Through this example Fiddes’ explains “do not spend the night fearful of the morrow…man knows not what the morrow is like. God (is always) in his success” (p.115). What I was able to take from this, was the fact even though we do not know what will happen tomorrow, you should not let fear get the best of you. Once that happens, then it will only lead to failure and disappointment. A great example of this can be shown in George Lucas’ Star War: The Empire Strikes Back. The scene in which Luke Skywalker doubts himself using the force to retrieve his ship from the lake on Dagobah. When Luke believes that he can not do it to Yoda, it leads to one of the most famous quotes in cinema history “do or do not, there is no try.” The meaning behind Yoda saying this to Luke, was to prove to him that anything is possible. This was clearly shown when Yoda, a small individual, is able to lift the ship from the lake and place it back on land. Both of these has its own connection to adversity, particularly not being prepared for what life might throw at you.

From my own life experiences, I have had to deal many with hardships primarily with injuries and grades. Ever since I have been growing up, the most common analogy that my father would use is “just when you think things are working out, life throws you a curveball, and you gotta be ready when it comes. During those times, life threw some of the nastiest curveballs my way. Also it was time where I believed that nothing was going to get better. Fortunately even though I was down in the count I was able to hit it out of the park, and rise from the ashes.

First my major injury occurred during my sophomore year of high school, when I had fractured my ankle wrestling for my school team. The effects of the injury forced me to go through a four month recovery stage before I was able to walk on my strength. During the recovery process, the doctors had said that there could be a 50/50 chance that I could not be able to wrestle again. Hearing something like that was one of the worst things in the world. However, after my ankle had fully recovered, I was given the green light for physical activity, allowing me to wrestle for the remainder of my high school career. Returning to my first match since the injury, I was incredibly nervous and had the fear of possibly re-breaking my ankle. When the match began those nerves quickly went away and I went on to win first place in a tournament in my perspective weight class. Even though there was the chance that the injury could happen again, I did not let it get in the way of making me quit.

The second incident came with my academics. Ever since I have been attending school I have always done fine or great with in regards to my grades, never having a worry in the world. That mindset carried over from high school into my first semester freshman year of college. Then like a ton of bricks my world came crashing down. For the first time ever I was failing to two courses, and was barely managing to keep a B average in my other classes. Due to this occurring, it almost drove my parents to the point of pulling me out of school. To this day, my that first semester remains a thorn in my side, and was the reason for why I lost my scholarship. From my sophomore year all the way to Fall 2017 semester, the goal was for me to get the scholarship back. Unlike most people that were behind such as myself, I was eventually able to get my grade point average high enough to be reinstated. Even though I will only be going into my senior year and have yet to experience what the real world is like, this hands down was the hardest thing I have ever overcame. Returning to Fiddes’s take on Amen-em-Opet, I had no idea what tomorrow was going to bring during that time. However, by not giving up and working for what I wanted most, achieving it was the greatest feeling in the world.

Trying come back from any type of hardship is always going to be a challenge, regardless of what may be. Being able to persevere through it and making your way back is one of the greatest accomplishments one can achieve. One quote I feel that perfectly coincides with this idea of being able to overcome adversity is by Roy Bennett, a former Zimbabwean politician. In his quote he explains “your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.” This quote alone proves that overcoming adversity is able to make people stronger. It is no easy road to overcome adversity, but when succeeding it you can practically do anything that you put your mind to. Every theology/religious course that I have taken in my academic career, have all had examples of overcoming adversity. A hardship that someone can experience in their lives can be anything. What makes people stronger, is by overcoming whatever life may throw at you, it can be sports, grades, etc. As history major, one thing that I feel that history does for humanity, is that it allows us to go back and learn from our mistakes. It allows us to take those mistakes and apply them to the future in order to make a better life for everyone else. One of the greatest feelings in the world, is being able to do something that is extremely difficult, because it allows you to do anything.

Works Cited

Anspaugh, David. 1993 Rudy

Arguello, Lorenzo. 2012. "Josh Hamilton: How The Former Can't Miss Prospect Overcame Drug Addiction To Become Baseball's Biggest Superstar". Business Insider. http:// www.businessinsider.com/josh-hamilton-bio-2012-5.

Costly, Andrew. 2018. "The Origins Of Islamic Law - Constitutional Rights Foundation". Crf- Usa.Org. http://www.crf-usa.org/america-responds-to-terrorism/the-origins-of-islamic- law.html.

Fiddes, Paul. 2013. Seeing the World & Knowing God. Oxford University Press

Satrapi, Marjane. 2003. Persepolis. London: Jonathan Cape.

Simon, David. 2002. HBO Original Series The Wire.

“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.” - Roy Bennet

Work Cited

  • Anspaugh, David, director. Rudy
  • “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 by Eric Barreto.” Ephesians 2:11-22 Commentary by Kyle Fever - Working Preacher - Preaching This Week (RCL), www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1218.
  • Josh Hamilton Stats, Fantasy & News.” Major League Baseball, m.mlb.com/player/285078/Josh-Hamilton.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-wfDZErJqI&feature=player_embedded
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qoh3YkxuwVo


Created with images by Quino Al - "Placaje"

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