This archived article was written by: David Osborne Jr.
The other day I was reading an article about a 14-year-old young man named Zach Nash. Nash had just won the junior Wisconsin PGA tournament but later noticed that he had 15-golf clubs in his golf bag, one club too many, according to the rules. Nash could have kept the medal for winning but did what many people wouldn’t do; he went back and disqualified himself from the tournament and gave up the medal.
After reading this story I started to think about honesty and integrity, and how they seem to be just a few of the missing virtues from the world of sports, and what causes athletes to lose them. We hear about athletes both in college and professional sports that aren’t honest and ruin sports for those of us that enjoy watching them. As I was pondering all of this, I started to think about what happened to these athletes that lose their sense of the game and what it means to honor it by being honest and playing fairly.
I guess there are lots of different reasons for all of us to be dishonest. One such case is we enjoy what we are getting so we see no real need to be honest. Does this remind anybody of the case of Reggie Bush? Getting really great kickbacks not only for you and your family, just because you are a good running back doesn’t sound like a bad deal, other than it is against the rules. Could Bush have been honest about all of this, sure. In fact he could have been more than honest and not accepted the stuff at all. If he hadn’t, then we wouldn’t have to worry about how the University of Southern California is being punished, or what is going to happen to the now vacant 2005 Heisman Trophy.
The next reason I thought an athlete might lie is the simple fact that they don’t want to get caught. I like to call this the “Rocket Syndrome.” Roger “The Rocket” Clemens has been in the news the last couple of years constantly changing his story about using steroids. It started with, “I have never taken steroids or HGH;” then his trainer Brian McNamee states that he injected three players, two of which already confirmed his story, and the third (Clemens) was sitting at the table with him, which McNamee pointed out. Clemens is facing an indictment on federal perjury charges for lying to Congress. At least we can trust Andy Pettitte and Brian McNamee to be honest and tell us that Clemens was doing steroids. If only they could all be smart enough and just not do it so they wouldn’t have to lie.
Another kind of lying that I thought of for sports figures in general is denial. This kind hits closer to home here at Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah. Coach Brent Martindale recently left USU-CEU but had quite an interesting original press release after a coaching tenure that was less than stellar. In the press release, it said that after 15 years of coaching, he had 13 All-American players and 13 All-Region players. After the mistake was caught, the press release states that he had 13 academic All-Americans, which is a huge difference from an All-American candidate. To add insult to injury, the press release said that he put an emphasis on winning and recruiting quality players. During the middle of this particular career here as head coach, he had a record of nine wins and 45 losses from the year 2001 to 2005, and those numbers didn’t get any better closer to his leaving.
The greatest reason that I have come up with though is that athletes start to lie when they forget what they are playing for. There is no longer a love for the game that keeps them lacing up their shoes and giving it their all. In the movie “The Replacements,” coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) tells Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) that he would rather have him as the quarterback over Eddie Martel, the star quarterback, because Falco plays with heart. The fact that an athlete has heart shows their passion for the game. That is what keeps athletes being honest, the fact that they have heart and play for the love of the game, not the fame or the money but because they truly love it. That is why honesty has been on the tee.