Sports Ethics: How to Crap-up a Season in Two Easy Steps

Kentucky Basketball RiotI have never met Coach John Calipari, though I admire what he has accomplished at Kentucky. A record of 38-1 isn’t exactly a failure; to make it to the Final Four is a big deal. They lost to a Wisconsin team that was also a 1-seed. It wasn’t the case of losing to a huge underdog. It was a loss and the loss stings, but life goes on and every fan who understands basketball knows that a 38-0 run prior to the loss is nothing short of amazing. You celebrate that. You be humble in that.

At the press conference (I hate those things!) following the loss, Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison blurted an insensitive insult toward Wisconsin standout Frank Kaminsky. It was a racial slur made in the heat of the moment, but in my heart I don’t feel it was at all racist. In fact, Harrison, who is black, made the racist slur toward a white player using a term traditionally used for black players. In other words, they were words blurted by a 20 year-old kid who was upset. Did it kind of tarnish an image of a 38-1 team? Maybe. A little.

As an aside, one of our Sports Ethics courses specifically coaches athletes on how to handle the media and social media situations.

To his credit, when Coach Calipari was interviewed over the weekend, he defended Andrew Harrison. He did not apologize and he did not back down to play some kind of politically correct game. He said the same thing I would have said: his player is a young kid who meant no harm and said something stupid he regretted. His player apologized to Kaminsky and it’s forgotten. Again, I could have helped prevent it, but no lasting harm was done.

What Calipari can’t control

What John Calipari or Andrew Harrison could not control were more than 1,000 completely classless Kentucky students who decided to storm a residential Lexington neighborhood and riot. The students set fires, smashed bottles, did property damage and fought the police. There were about 31 arrests. Why? Because their team lost. Well, boo-freakin’-hoo.

Whatever the rioters believe themselves to be, here is what they are not: “fans.” They were drunk, they were disorderly, they fought the police, they didn’t care one bit about the property they damaged, and they cared for only one thing: themselves. The amazing accomplishment of 38-0 was irrelevant to them.

It paints a much larger picture.

We have worked our way into a sports society that views the world through only one lens, and that is the lens of winning.

It is one of the reasons why I dislike the helicopter parent mentality; it is a major reason why I dislike sports leagues where every child gets a blue ribbon and a first place trophy. It is a huge reason why parents who sue teams because their precious child did not get enough playing time drives me crazy.

Second place is not the first loser. Second place is a motivation for kids or professionals to try harder, work harder and not to blame everyone and everything for their losses. Here’s another fact: maybe the kid who finishes second this week, finished 10th last week. That is nothing to be ashamed of – ever!

In life, we don’t all get the first place trophy. In life, if we believe we deserve to get more playing time or a better job or a bigger title, we work for it.

Chances are the Kentucky rioters that night have never played their hearts out in a game or puked out their guts on a practice field. Kentucky lost to a better Wisconsin team that night. It’s that simple.

Yes, you can feel bad as a fan, but life goes on. The rioters did what they could to crap up a spectacular season, and not one Kentucky player had a thing to do with it. That night, Kentucky finished 38-2, but don’t blame the team.

 

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