Te’o and Armstrong: Honesty and Integrity Should be the Name of Their Game

Looks like we cannot turn our heads this week without finding out an athlete has deceived us yet again. Let me just break this down for those not in the know.

- The cyclist, once known as the greatest U.S. cyclist of our generation, Lance Armstrong, was caught doping and has finally admitted to it.

-  The runner up to the 2012 Heisman Trophy and part of one of the greatest football teams Notre Dame has ever seen, Manti Te’o , has himself wrapped up in some college drama involving a “catfish” hoax and the alleged playing to the sympathy of fans for some publicity.

Some say, “who cares?” For some, it is all they think about. I am involved with sports via association. As in everyone around me is a sports maniac, and if I would like to participate in conversation with those that I spend my time, I read up on this stuff. Also, there are actually a few sports that I do genuinely like.

I know the benefits of sports, and I also am well aware of the pitfalls. I used to participate, I currently watch, and sometimes I get sucked in. I was raised in a sports household. I love almost everything that sports represents.

Almost.

Sometimes I live in an idealistic world and I like it there for the most part, but I’m about to get real here. We live in a world where sports is such big money that rather than teach our children that reading and school are important we enroll them in the first possible sport available for their age group. Then, instead of teaching them teamwork, self respect, hard work, and the lessons that can be brought about by winning and losing, we start teaching our kids that sports make you money, make you famous, that winning is good and losing sucks. Next, the kids that actually are impeccable athletes are taught to compete not only against the other team, but taught to compete with those on their own team for scholarships, endorsements, and money. If you want some insight on what parents are teaching their kids regarding sports, check out 10 Things NOT to Say at Your Kid's Soccer Game by another ChicagoNow blogger who writes Cheaper Than Therapy.

Then what happens? We are surprised, shocked, saddened, and betrayed when our favorite athletes lie, cheat, and play on our sympathies to get to the next level on the pay scale. These athletes, who have spent their whole lives competing realize that maybe they might not actually be the best in the world, and don’t really know how to do anything else. Nobody denies that these athletes put in the time, the training, the dedication, the blood, the sweat, the tears. They sacrifice their whole lives for this. Then they come to find out that someone still might be better than them, and that has to be devastating when all they know and have been taught is winning.

Some ask who is the victim in all of this. I say it is sports.  Who is going to think sports is fun when it is only about money? What kid is going to want to play sports when all that matters is winning? Who wants to watch when the people who play professionally might be cheaters? People are going to start putting athletes in the same category as phonies or dare I say, the Kardashians? Fake people pretending it is all real.

Basically, all the wrong lessons have been taught and learned by these athletes. Then, when one runs into some trouble he/she does not know how to deal with it. These people need some help when it comes to honesty, integrity, and work ethic. Not all of them, but some of them. They need back up careers, and someone (parents, coaches, other honest athletes) to give them a good talking to about priorities. They need to know that the world will not end if they don’t win.

If genes are any indication of how athletically talented a kid is. Then, well, my kids are out of luck. However, am I happy that my middle child has started to throw a baseball left handed? Yes! Will I still sign my daughter up for pitching lessons? Absolutely! Is my oldest kid ready for another season of soccer? DUH! Why? Because I love sports. Also, I know better. I was taught that being athletically talented is not all there is in life. I was taught that I didn’t have to be the best basketball player to have fun playing, know the value of teamwork, and how to play fair. I was taught that it was ok to get lapped by the girl who could run the two mile in high school track way faster than me because I had other things tied to my self respect. I love sports for more than money and winning. I love the camaraderie among team mates and fans, I love how sports can be a direct correlation for teaching true life lessons, I love sports for the entertainment, and the excitement, and for pete’s sake the exercise. I love hearing true stories of hard work, sacrifice, and overcoming all odds to succeed. These are all lessons I want to teach my kids.

Truth be told, I am disappointed in these athletes, and any other athlete who has used deception to get ahead. Who isn’t? However, I am and I will pass on the stories of these failures because these situations are wrought with an impeccable life truth: honesty, integrity and hard work are more important than winning. In fact, if you have honesty integrity and work ethic, you’ve already won.

I know it is totally 80’s, but wasn’t there some after school special that said something like :“Winners never cheat. Cheaters never win?”

Let’s remember to pass this advice on to our kids every time we drop off them off at practice, shall we?

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