Sports

Super Bowl provides us with an important teachable moment

I really have mixed feelings about the outcome of yesterday’s Super Bowl. It was a fantastic game, no matter who you were rooting for, and that’s always nice. Historically a lot of Super Bowls have been yawners.

I wasn’t really pulling for the Giants so much as I was against the Patriots, and that was tough for me, too. See, when you look at how New England does things, they really get a lot right. No prima donnas. We, not me. Brains and teamwork trump individual athleticism. Etc. In essence, they have won by repudiating everything that’s wrong about sports in this day and age. They’re the San Antonio Spurs of the NFL.

As an old-school guy who was raised by an even older-school grandfather, this matters to me. He was one of those guys who grew up through the Depression and who actually did walk six miles to school each day. People who knew him way back when thought that in a different day and age he might have been good enough to make it to the bigs in baseball, but the hard realities of life intervened.

At my house, sportsmanship mattered. Losing right was preferred to winning wrong. Education was more important that sports. And you did it right or you didn’t play. Period. There was no compromise on any of this.

So despite my appreciation for The Patriot Way, I was more than a little distressed by revelations earlier this year that Bill Belichick, the architect of the program, had intentionally, willfully and with malice aforethought broken the rules of the game. I don’t care whether or not a significant advantage was gained. I don’t care whether or not you think other teams do it to (around here, proof carries more weight than paranoid conspiracy theory). I don’t care if others don’t see it this way. All I care about is that the man established a clever process for cheating.

Bill Belicheat.

Given how people tend to operate, I’m skeptical that the instance he got busted for this year was the only time he’s cheated, especially in light of reports bubbling up that he did it to St. Louis before the 2002 Super Bowl. Am I being unfair here and violating my own rule about proof? Put it this way. When you do what we now know he did, you forfeit any presumption of innocence. Even if this is the only time in your life you broke a rule, you have given away your right and ability to call on your reputation.

I understand the rage in Bob Lefsetz’s rant in today’s e-mail newsletter:

But we live in a country of pussy penalties, everyone must be given multiple chances, because otherwise the ECONOMY might suffer! It’s all about the money…

And I don’t want to say today’s game had nothing to do with bread, but I felt a righting of the solar system, a giant correction factor. Reverse the curse? After Bill Clinton lied, the truth was for losers. Mr. Smith got kicked out of not only Washington, but the courtroom, everywhere in America. We live in a nation of lying, cheating scumbags. Especially those with power. There’s no honor, just spacious houses and expensive automobiles…But, FINALLY, that old axiom held true… CHEATERS NEVER PROSPER! The Patriots lost. Couldn’t happen to a more smug crew. I can’t say that I love the Giants, not since Y.A. Tittle and Ally Sherman, but I think you play the game with all you’ve got, you don’t fight for an illegal edge, and if you happen to lose, well NOBODY ALWAYS WINS!

Enron. Bernie Ebbers. Joe Nacchio. Dennis Koslowski. The Rigas. Is Bellicheat in their league? Well, his taping of the Jets, his alleged taping of the Rams and whatever else he may have done didn’t destroy anyone’s pension, so maybe not.

But we’re a nation of sport and the NFL is one of our most prominent morality plays. It’s symbolic, and what happens in our major sports teaches us, and especially our kids, lessons that will endure for as long as they live. Think your kids aren’t learning from Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the Mitchell Report?

NFL Commish Roger Goodell went too light on the Pats and his behavior of late makes me wonder if he’s trying to make a looming scandal go away for the good of the league’s image bottom line. Don’t know, but time will tell.

In any case, it’s good when we see cheaters failing to prosper. I hate it for a class act like Junior Seau, who may have seen his last shot at a ring die with David Tyree’s epic catch, but this is a small price to pay for an important lesson.

If you’re a parent, I hope you’ll make the most of this teachable moment in sports history.

20 replies »

  1. Pingback: www.buzzflash.net
  2. Thought you didn’t watch Super Bowls anymore. 😉

    Yay for the Giants. The Patriots losing was only half the story here. I have rarely if ever seen a team go on a run like the Giants did, amid so much chaos. Remember, this was a team that supposedly sucked. An All-Star walked away from the game because of it. A coach played much of the season probably expecting to be fired at any time. A kid QB had his heart and talent questioned.

    Justice was served on that field yesterday. ‘Nuff said.

  3. *Please do your best to ignore the angry, embittered Jets-fan rhetoric that may permeate this post*

    Patriot Way, as you call it, has always been something of a lie in regards to Belichick, especially the sportsmanship aspect. Anyone else remember “I resign as the HC of the NYJ” scrawled out on loose leaf? Tact, class and sportsmanship is something foreign to the man.

    That doesn’t mean he doesn’t comprehend their value. I don’t know how he managed to get a team to accept those qualities when he himself hasn’t, but he did. How else do you explain the immediate behavior change of Randy Moss and Cory Dillon upon arrival. It ain’t because there’s less media coverage in New England than there is in Cincinnati, Minneapolis or Oakland.

    On a slightly different note, until last night, I always compared games to Super Bowl XXXIV to measure their quality (Air McNair driving his team downfield only to have his receiver tackled at the 1 yard line? Wow). I’ve got a new yard stick today.

  4. You are right this would be a teachable moment if we knew that the Giants were clean as far a drugs, hidden video clips, and etc. I think your right that kids do look to these players for models, but that is precisely what is wrong. We have become voyeurs and peeping-toms called spectators and viewers as euphemisms.

  5. Roger: We can’t speculate about things that may or may not be true. We KNOW the Pats cheated, and that’s all that matters here. It’s not about the Giants being choir boys or even that they won. It’s about the Patriots LOSING.

    Yeah, our culture has gone to hell with its sports worship, and that’s a huge issue. But it’s not the point here….

  6. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t comprehend their value. I don’t know how he managed to get a team to accept those qualities when he himself hasn’t, but he did. How else do you explain the immediate behavior change of Randy Moss and Cory Dillon upon arrival. It ain’t because there’s less media coverage in New England than there is in Cincinnati, Minneapolis or Oakland.

    Randy Moss remains the center of the single greatest myth of this season – that he became a solid citizen upon arriving in NE. No, this year proved the opposite – that he’d been a punk-ass front-running quitter before coming to NE. ANYBODY can be a great guy when he’s catching a zillion balls for an undefeated team, but you learn the truth about people in the bad times. This year didn’t change a damned thing about Randy Moss.

  7. Does anyone also understand that: Tom Petty’s song “I won’t back down” is about the little guy standing up to the big corporation?

    He and bandmates went for THREE YEARS without a paycheck until they won the right – the right – to own their own music that they wrote…

    There are hints of truth in their music. Not to mention GREAT showmanship and music.

    May we find our way back to truth and real democracy… sooner than later.

    PEACE.

    “When I, the People learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
    who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name:
    ‘The People,’ with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far off smile of derision. The mob-the crowd-the mass-will arrive then.”
    ——–Carl Sandburg, “I am the People”

  8. Suffice it to say that I love Tom Petty. I alsofeel sorry that he went for three years without a paycheck, but that was of his own doing. When signing his contract, he should have done some due diligence that would have kept him out of the mess he landed in.

    Jeff

  9. Jeff: This is technically true, but the music industry is a special case. It’s rigged in ways that nothing else I’ve ever come across can begin to touch. Yes you have a choice – you can choose not to have a career, is often what it amounts to.

  10. “I think your right that kids do look to these players for models, but that is precisely what is wrong. We have become voyeurs and peeping-toms called spectators and viewers as euphemisms.”

    Exactly right.. I couldn’t say it better myself. Why we feel it’s so great, as a society, to sit on our couches getting fatter and drunk while others do the work, I’ll never understand. …. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching a “good game” (football, I find everything else boring, as I do football 90% of the time), but if it’s watch a game or go play catch with my kid or dog, I’ll be outside, thanks.

    And, Dr. Slammy, I think the point of “we don’t know if the Giants are ‘clean’ ” is meant to imply, if you use this as a lesson for your kids.. that is, tell them “see? The Pats cheated and ultimately Karma got them.. cheaters never win”.. then find out that the Giants cheated MORE (drugs, spies, something).. then what message did you just give your kids when that “truth” comes out? .. Uh.. “he who cheats the most, wins”.

    I don’t think using something like this is a good teaching tool for kids (not in the context you’re suggesting). It gives too much weight to the entire process/system. Perhaps showing your child someone from the losing team being a good sport? One of the losers saying “Man, they played a great game! They beat us good!”. .. -that- might be an example to point out to your kid and say “see? That’s someone that is playing because they love the game, not because they have to ‘win’ at everything.. it’s not about the winning, it’s about the playing”. ….. but, that’s just me.

  11. And, Dr. Slammy, I think the point of “we don’t know if the Giants are ‘clean’ ” is meant to imply, if you use this as a lesson for your kids.. that is, tell them “see? The Pats cheated and ultimately Karma got them.. cheaters never win”.. then find out that the Giants cheated MORE (drugs, spies, something).. then what message did you just give your kids when that “truth” comes out? .. Uh.. “he who cheats the most, wins”.

    The message isn’t, and never was, about the Giants. It was about the object lesson represented by the Patriots. If I have a good example message I’ll certainly use it, but yes, it’s good to be careful when anointing saints. You have to feel for all those parents out there who may have used Clemens as some kind of positive role model, huh?

    I don’t often point to sports stars when I need heroes, and if I do it’s for their off-the-field accomplishments mostly. We have lots of good role model material in America, but as much as I love sports, comparatively few athletes fit the bill quite like, say, a teacher.

  12. As far as good sportsmanship is concerned, I always subscribed to the old axiom, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether I win or lose.”:)

    Jeff

  13. Hey Dr. Slammy…stop over at my blog and check out the piece of art I’m bidding on tomorrow. I’m actually bidding on four paintings(have posted two of them), and hopefully will snag one of them.

    Jeff

  14. If I win all four of the works I’m bidding on, I’ll be eligible for food stamps:)

    Seriously, someday the Ringling Art Museum will get some nice art when I’m dead and gone.

    Jeff

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