Friday, November 18, 2011

Something I needed to say

This morning a plane crash killed the coach and an assistant coach of the Oklahoma State women's basketball team.

Last night an assistant coach at Syracuse was suspended in light of another abuse investigation.

The Penn State saga continues.

The cheating accusations -- well, those just never really end.

I think the NBA season is officially canceled.

I love sports. I always have. And I've always been driven to be the best, to win, to leave it all on the field and expect the same, albeit perhaps unrealistically, from other people. The only thing about track that I like better than soccer was as an individual sport, I rose and fell on my own merit. I love winning. As self-centered as it sounds, I like being better -- not just than I was yesterday or last year, but better than other people. I've cried when I lost. I've thought and even a couple of times said some really ugly things about my teammates who couldn't keep up.

So what I am about to write makes me a hypocrite.

It's not all about football. Winning is not the most important thing. And, belying that No Fear T-shirt from my junior high years, it's not the only thing. Yet until the United Sports of Athletics -- coaches, players, fans, administrators -- changes, this culture of "Do whatever you want as long as you're winning" is never going to change.

Young boys were victims of men in positions of power in some of these football programs. They were taken advantage of. They were deeply and emotionally scarred. The conversation never should have been about Joe Paterno's legacy. It should have been about finding the truth and doing what's right.

And, as long as being the best remains the No. 1 goal of college sports, there's going to be cheating. There's too much money on the table for it not to happen. Same with the NBA. I wish those multimillionaire players and owners would for a second imagine they were a bunch of kids playing basketball after school in some small-town or inner-city park. They're wearing ratty old jerseys with James, Anthony and Bryant on the back, imagining being one of the greats setting up for the three-pointer that will win the championship. For some reason I have yet to fathom, these kids look up to these athletes. Why don't you neglected little rich boys think about the actual people who are hurting because of the dumbest money squabble of all time?

Meanwhile, in Stillwater, two families are mourning. The conversation about OSU yesterday was their chance at the title game. Today it's about two people who died too soon, two families left with questions and old T-shirts, and a college community with a gaping hole.

Yes, sports are about winning. I'll never think differently. But if these college students aren't learning how to be effective leaders, how to solve problems, how to make reasoned choices and how to function off the field or court, this cycle is just going to continue. Producing a good quarterback may or may not go a long way. Producing a good man will, every single time.

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