Tell the Truth. . . Most of the Time

This thirty second sportsmanship commercial produced by the Foundation for a Better Life got me thinking about how in sports an “ends justify the means” mentality often dominates. Why is that?

We’re used to seeing wide receivers trap balls and pop up as if they caught them before they hit the ground. Similarly, we’re using to seeing outfielders pop up after trapping line drives as if they were legit catches. And as the commercial highlights, in bball players routinely deny having tipped a ball.

One definition of morality is doing the right thing when no one’s looking, in some sports though, we seemingly accept whatever it takes to win.

Can’t athletes be both passionate about winning and ethical?

I take a car crash approach to YouTube comments, try not to look, but in the case of this commercial, I couldn’t help myself. One commenter made an interesting point by saying it’s important to defer to the third, impartial party to maintain control and that the refs wouldn’t have liked having their call questioned. Is that a legit explanation for the status quo or is it a weak rationalization for lying? Most people ripped the player for admitting to touching the ball before it went out of bounds.

Again, why do we expect people to tell the truth when completing their taxes, but take an “anything goes” approach to winning? If you’re over thirty five you might remember the fifth down game. Gotta love Bill McCartney‘s (of Promise Keepers fame) stirring response.

Maybe it’s just the major sports. Golf is well known for requiring honesty and as Rosie Ruiz found out, generally you have to run the whole 26.2 miles of a marathon.

What am I going to do all about this? The next time I race my daughter in the 500 free, I’m going to get my counter to flip from 13 to 17 and hope no one notices. If they do, I’m sure everyone will cut me some slack.

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