One of the fundamental lessons we learn growing up from our parents, teachers and coaches is that winners never cheat and cheaters never win. This lesson is foundational in learning the values of honor, hard work, determination, perseverance and respect. Lying and cheating are the cornerstone of more serious crimes and usually among the first offenses children commit against their parents, their peers and their communities. Enforcing a code of honor and teaching the values of fairness early in their development is crucial for children to learn the difference between right and wrong and to grow into strong, law abiding pillars in our society. Unfortunately, families and educators face a myriad of barriers limiting their abilities to grown and shape children into upstanding adults and one major obstruction comes from pro-sports.
We look for athletes to serve as role models, people for children to learn from and emulate as they grow into adulthood. In the past the role of athlete serving as hero and role model to a nation’s youth was a major factor in children learning valuable life lessons such as the importance of teamwork, the need to study and train, the desire to achieve, and how to keep the eye on the ball. Those lessons, and others learned through sports, can be applied into every life situation whether it is in school, at home or in the workplace. Players’ questionable activities and links to horrific crimes in recent decades have made it increasingly difficult for parents and communities to consider them the strong role models they were in the past. When players are caught murdering girlfriends, selling drug and involved in drunk driving accidents the leagues and players argue that athletes remain stellar examples to children through their actions on the field, still demonstrating the valuable lessons available through team sports.
The past few years have brought headlines reporting numerous scandals on the field. What do children learn through the lack of actions against lying baseball players; cheating through steroid use is tolerated, it is acceptable to manipulate a ball for a better pitch and perfectly okay to cork a bat. Colleges far and wide are accused of allowing athletes to cheat on exams to ensure their grade point average allows them to play. The NBA is investigating referees charged with throwing games. We even hear of horses drugged by their trainers for better racing results.
In the most recent news we learn that the best way to become a football franchise of historical proportions, winning three of the past six Super bowls, is to stretch the limits on rules governing the use of technology. The NFL is accusing the New England Patriots of violating league rules when their video crew was caught taping the defensive signals of the New York Jets and potentially broadcasting them immediately to the coaches. For those who do not follow football, this is the equivalent of someone sitting behind a poker player, telling everyone what is in his hand. We must now wait and see how hard the NFL comes down on this storied team, their golden child quarterback and winning coach. If they get nothing more then a slap on the wrist, it is just another message that cheating is perfectly acceptable so long as you win. At least this gives fans of other AFC east teams, like this Buffalo Bills fan, another excuse to why we were unable to win the division in recent memory.
Many argue that cheating has always been present in athletics. While this might be true, the extensive coverage and subsequent lack of disciplinary action is making it impossible to use sports and athletes as methods to teach children that hard work and dedication, above all else, is how they will succeed in life. Children, and adults, are exposed to those who they admire and emulate engaging in deceitful activities in their livelihood and children are fast learning a dangerous lesson; it is okay to cheat so long as you win. It must be very difficult to raise an upstanding child in a culture that accepts cheating as part of the game and makes excuses for player indiscretions.