Friday, July 27, 2007

Summer Scandals

First, it's about 70 degrees with 96% humidity. It feels like a swamp. I anticipate a lot of whining at VBS today.

Now, onto today's post. Right now, three major professional sports and one major international sporting event are rife with scandal. What is happening with today's athletes and officials?

First, in football, Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges related to an alleged dog-fighting enterprise that was being run on a property he owned in Georgia. Dog fighting, in case you aren't familiar with it, is where dogs are pitted against each other and fight to the death. It is a "sport" that has been around for centuries and is illegal in the US and much of the world. Vick carried a bible into federal court in Richmond, VA, apologized to his mother and seemed largely unfazed by the jeers from the large crowd.

In basketball, referee Tim Donaghy is alleged to have placed bets on basketball games, some of which he officiated. He is accused of allegedly making calls that would help the outcome of his bets. This is a man who makes over $200,000 each basketball season!

In baseball, Barry Bonds is close to breaking Hank Aaron's home run record but the allegations that he has boosted his performance by using steroids will forever put a blot on any of his achievements.

And finally, the Tour de France is filled with controversy this year. Yesterday, the man favored to win the race was sent home by his team after he was accused of giving the team incorrect information when he missed random drug tests. He told his team he was in Mexico but other riders report he was in Italy. In case you aren't following the race, Rasmussen is the 4th rider this year to face doping related issues. Italian Cristian Moreni and his entire team withdrew from the race. Alexandre Vinokourov was forced out along with members of his team after he tested positive for blood transfusions which are not allowed in cycling. And Patrick Sinkewitz tested positive for elevated testosterone levels. As allowed, he has asked for his "B" sample to be tested. Last year's winner, American Floyd Landis, still claims his innocence after he was accused of doping.

What is this all about? Money? Michael Vick signed a 10 year contract extension in 2004 worth $130 million. How much more money does he need?

Is it about the need to win? You may be able to cheat your way to victory and not get caught, but you still have to live with yourself, your family, your children and your fans. How does someone with controversy hanging over their head face that day in and day out? Is the moral fiber of humanity at risk? If you add the Paris Hilton's and Lindsay Lohan's of the world to this analysis you see the added dimension of a group of people who conduct themselves as if the rules and laws of society don't apply to them.

I find all these sports scandals to be terrible, but I'm not that surprised. How many children's sporting events have you attended where overzealous parents shout at kids from the sidelines? And have you ever had a conversation with your kid's teacher about how vicious some parents are to them when their kids get bad grades? It seems that there are some parents who have an unnatural need for their kids to be the best of the best. They seem willing to do anything to get that for them. We all want our children to see success in their lives. We don't want them to suffer the humiliation of failing grades because of missing assignments. We want them to make every team for which they try out. But messing up now and then isn't really a bad thing. Allowing a child to learn from their mistakes teaches them responsibility, humility and the value of hard work.

I hope the lesson of all the sports and entertainment scandals of this summer is that if you break the rules, you will get caught. Best to toe the line so you can wake up each day and be proud of the face you see in the mirror.

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