Lying and cheating replace fun and games as sporting's credo

Phil Jackman

August 23, 1993|By Phil Jackman

Within just a couple of days of each other, Auburn and Washington, for years powerhouses and contenders for national football honors, have been cited for doing what seems to come naturally at too many colleges.

They drew stiff and stiffer penalties for tossing money around to supposed amateurs and the reaction has been what you would expect: Hey, why are you picking on us? Implied, of course, is that everyone does it.

Players in both football and basketball sign contracts and no sooner is the ink dry when leagues bounce the documents back as being transparent attempts to circumvent its rules.

Baseball players have the word of the owners, for what it's worth, that they need not fear a spring training lockout next year and that arbitration and free agency rules won't be changing soon.

For such "concessions," management wants the players to promise they won't strike at any time in 1994. Oh yeah, just one big, happy, trusting family, these guys.

The list rumbles on and on. An hour doesn't go by when some woman coaching basketball doesn't sue the school to get her salary raised to the level of the men's coach who, admittedly, makes far too much money, which isn't provided (or controlled) by the school.

If there's something you don't like, dial up a lawyer and he'll run interference.

Allegations that an NHL team deliberately lost a game to ensure the top pick in the draft and that a soccer team owner in France attempted to bribe the opposition are "hogwash," naturally. We have the charged parties' word on that.

And up the road in Pennsylvania this week, the Little League World Series will be raging. Heck, it's never too early to take the easy way out, ask Taiwan and the Philippines, which figured the age limit of players was 21, not 12. Maybe the guy reading the regulations was dyslexic.

If skulduggery can occur at the big World Series, circa 1919, or at something as seemingly innocent as the Soap Box Derby, why not in Williamsport?

Sadly, the message in a lot of these instances seems to be that it's all right to cheat; just don't get caught. Meanwhile, if you don't think there are at least a hundred colleges that would trade a glamorous and lucrative national title for a slap on the wrist from the NCAA, chances are your mommy sends you off to school with your lunch money tied up in a handkerchief.

When did the expression the end justifies the means suddenly become the credo in sports? Does anything embarrass us anymore?

Is what they're doing down at the Naval Academy these days, reviewing and refining the honor code, an exercise in futility?

Clearly, it's time everyone involved with sport, or any other activity for that matter, took it upon himself/herself/itself to reaffirm personal standards. Picture it, an honor code to include everyone.

As long as the planet proceeds on its axis there will be people looking to gain an edge, get the best of it, reel in a sucker or take advantage of some unsuspecting rube from Manitoba. But do so many of us have to be vying to become "wise guys?"

The gang down in Annapolis, zapped by a cheating scandal in the past year, already has realized a review of its honor code, which probably dates to John Paul Jones, isn't going to be a quick study.

An eight-member commission was named by academy superintendent, Rear Admiral Tom Lynch, a while back, and it was expected to come in with recommendations in about five weeks, just in time for the start of classes this week.

Now the further the commission gets into the inconsistencies and the ramifications of the military school code, the more it is found that five months, not five weeks, is a more appropriate target day for conclusion of deliberations. And all we're talking about here is lying, cheating and stealing, which, in some quarters, are regarded as attributes.

They tell the story of when George Allen, still under contract to the Chicago Bears, tried to leave George Halas to take a head coaching job. Halas got up in court and thundered about what a dirty, low-down, back-biting, etc., Allen was. Vince Lombardi, upon hearing the description, is alleged to have said to the owner looking to hire Allen, "Sounds to me like you're looking to get yourself an excellent football coach."

Too much is happening at all levels of sports these days that is sick, dishonest, evil and completely counter to what fun and games is supposed to be. Chances are the situation will never be set right, taken back to what it is supposed to be. But if only everyone will try to act with honor and integrity. . . starting with the colleges admitting to their indiscretions and taking their punishments without crying.

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