So, this whole Lance Armstrong alleged doping scandal that’s been in the news for quite some time now has, once again, put the spotlight back on the world of sports and an unfortunate culture of cheating.
I want to talk about this for a couple of reasons. First, an incredible sister, pioneer and Olympian died 18 years ago this week at the far-too young age of 54.
She was a sickly child whose left leg was deformed by polio, and who doctors said would never walk normally. Not only did she heal and walk, but Wilma Rudolph went on to run faster than any other and, in the 1960 Olympics, became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals and she didn’t have to cheat to do it.
Second, I bring it up because of the recent and stunning news coming out of Florida regarding this undercover investigation into an alleged betting pool involving a South Florida youth football league called “Operation Dirty Play.”
According to an undercover officer, coaches are alleged to have either placed bets on their players or paid them performance or recruitment bonuses.
And get this: some of the players involved are as young as 9 years-old.
The Broward Organized Crime Task Force has video showing two coaches from opposing teams collecting cash from bets, and the group’s suspected leader–a coach with nine previous felonies and prison time (what the heck is he doing coaching Pee-Wee football???)–organized combined bets for over $100,000 on games, authorities say.
Now guys, I know we live in an era where many of our sports heroes and teams have taken the low road with steroids, cheating, betting, and placing bounties on each other’s heads, but when it gets to the point where folks are profiting from Pee-Wee Football, I think it’s fair to say we’re bottoming out.
I mean, what does it say about us as a society? (and yes, in case you guys are wondering, all of the folks involved are, sadly, from our community)
Remember, along with the moral and emotional impact on all of the children involved in this league, some of these children were actually coached to participate in the fixing of these games.
This culture of cheating is out of control…and, of course, it’s not just limited to the world of sports –it’s prevalent in our political system, our educational system, our media and many other areas of life.
And to tell the truth, I’d be cheating you if I said there were easy answers to solving this widespread problem.
But, I will say this: We need to remind our children that while we all like to win–and winning is an important goal–what matters is how you win.
As a society, we’ve got to do better by our children because by raising them in a cheating culture, we’re not only cheating them. We’re cheating our future.
I’ll end with this timeless quote from Sophocles:
“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.”