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Just Win, Baby…

October 22nd, 2010 5 comments

I read an AP news story yesterday about a Peruvian soccer team that allegedly poisoned their opponents and still lost the match. I don’t know which is harder to live down; the poisoning or the losing.
I’m a sports fan, but sometimes I wonder whatever happened to sportsmanship and the idea that “it’s just a game.” Are we so caught up with winning that we lose sight of the many lessons we should learn from sports? Have we forgotten the merits of training, practice, discipline, team building, mental toughness and, above all, playing by the rules? Without game rules and regulations there is no level playing field and without equal opportunity to win, there is no bona fide competition. Anything that gives one competitor an advantage over another, unless it is hard work and training, should not be allowed. Steroids, HGH and other performance enhancing drugs tarnish the reputations of players, affect statistics and eventually take a toll on the very athletes who tried to use them to create an advantage in the first place.
I like to play tennis. I’m an average club player. But the idea of intentionally making a bad line call, just to win, is abhorrent to me. I’d rather win than lose. I’d rather lose than cheat. And more than anything, I’d rather play than not play. If winning at “all costs” includes out-working and out-hustling the opponent, I’m all for that. If it means bending the rules to help insure victory, I still call that cheating.
There are rules broken in all sports that are often understandable and carry a personal or team penalty. In the NFL, during the heat and frenzy of battle, it’s easy to understand an off sides or false start. In the NBA, when seven foot guys are bouncing off of each other under the basket, an occasional walk or double dribble is going to happen. When it does the whistle blows and the penalty is called. Understandable. But outright cheating or intentionally injuring another player in an effort to win… that’s wrong.
There are other examples sports fans can point to and wonder how conclusions were reached. One that I have is not popular with everyone, but I still get on my bandwagon once in a while and re-visit the issue of baseball’s Pete Rose not being in The Hall of Fame. OK… he gambled on baseball, knowing it was against the rules. But he didn’t cheat on the field or in the dugout, and he still holds records that have never been broken. The truth is I’m not a huge baseball fan. I watch come playoff and World Series time, but during the dog days of summer, I treat it like golf on television. I think I’ll put on the game and take a nap. The Pete Rose issue has just never seemed fair to me, and there are far worse offenders in other sports, who don’t have Rose’s credentials, and are enshrined in various hallowed halls. ‘Nuff said.
Bottom line… Cheating is an ugly part of our everyday lives. It is rampant in business, schools and politics. We love our sports, sports stars and heroes, but winners never cheat, and, in the long run, cheaters never win.

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