Start with Penn State, then add USC, Uiversity of Miami, Ohio State, Syracuse, Ndamukong suh’s stomp, and Floyd Mayweather’s cheap shot. Reach back a little farther and you get Alberto Contador and before him Floyd Landis being stripped of Tour de France wins for doping, and you get Bill Belichick’s sideline video cheating scandal for the Boston Patriots. There are far more examples than those listed here.
Not all these examples are of the same level or concern. Some have argued that people over-reacted to certain occurrences, like for example the memorabilia-for-tattoos scenario at Ohio State. Certainly the child sexual molestation issues at Penn State and Syracuse are as bad as things get. Whatever your take on some of these instances, they all represent a hit on sportsmanship.
The New Orleans Saints “bounty system,” bonus pay for intentionally harming other teams’ players to knock then out of games represents a total disregard for sportsmanship. Not only did members of the Saints coaching staff ignore rules, they later lied to the NFL about their practice, and over at least three years stepped on ethics and fair play. What makes this situation a scandal is that not one or two but many people, coaches and players, colluded to make this scheme happen.
The Saints-that-ain’t worked together in multi-person cheating, lack of integrity, absence of ethics, and disregard for sportsmanship. It’s not unlike Enron or Arthur Andersen of a few years ago, just a different playing field.
Sportsmanship is the idea that sports teams can meet on a court or field of play for fair, honest, and by-the-rules competition. Any effort to gain advantage outside simply the talent and skill and desire of players participating in the event is a form of cheating. Such efforts destroy the integrity of sport, remove from it the joy and beauty of athletics, and reduce the competition to a conflict.
What’s even worse about the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty” is that it aimed at hurting other team’s athletes. This system was set up to damage not just fair play and competition but the health, wellbeing, and possibly livelihood of opposing athletes. It was a form of paying people for assault.
I was never all that warm to Roger Goodell, though I don’t know why. I’m in his camp now. The New Orleans Saints deserved to have the book thrown at them, and Goodell demonstrated far more backbone than most sports commissioners have been known to evidence. He conducted an investigation, found the evidence, and applied the penalty. For this we might in a few years be lauding him for helping restore some sportsmanship in professional sports. Now if only the NCAA could find its own Goodell.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
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