Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Culture of Cheating and Lying

The Culture of Cheating and Lying
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 12, 2015

First there was the New England Patriots NFL team, which earned the wrath of both sports fans and non-sports fans alike because of the message their issue with improperly deflated footballs sent, especially to impressionable children. Win at all costs and cheating does actually pay off.

Read “Pats Pigskin Peccadillo Simply Not Kosher,” here: and as noted, this was not the Patriots first rodeo where allegations of cheating are concerned.

Then there is the egregious spate of lying committed by soon to be former NBC Nightly News anchorman and managing editor Brian Williams. Having lied about being under enemy fire and shot at while part of a convoy of helicopters while on assignment in Iraq in 2003, Williams perpetuated his lies during an interview with David Letterman. Williams regaled his tall tale on social media as well, until a soldier assigned to Williams’ guard detail denied events occurred as Williams said. He then stumbled through an awkward attempt at an apology before announcing he was taking himself off the air – temporarily – until the matter could be cleared up.

Making matters worse for both Williams and NBC are the reports that he lied about seeing a dead body float past his French Quarter hotel while covering Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in August 2005. Confirmation that the French Quarter was not under water and in fact was predominantly dry once again lends credence to the notion that Williams’ words are suspect at best, damaging at worst.

By damaging, it is not just a distraction that Williams lied – not misspoke, not misremembered – after all he is not a member of the Obama administration, or Congress, or a candidate for president. As a member of the Fourth Estate Williams has a responsibility to provide credible, truthful news reports to the people and neither lie nor inject himself into the story. (As politicians were mentioned, one should wonder if Hillary Clinton’s lies about coming under sniper fire in 1996 while the then first lady visited Bosnia will come back to haunt her in a potential 2016 run for the White House.)

When the rank and file of the American populous are unable to trust the source of the news they receive, the floodgates open for all sorts of chicanery to occur at so many levels. It also sends a message that not only is the news source unreliable, in this case, NBC, but they are not the only guilty party in the history of broadcasting, or in the news business as a whole. As a result of the severity of this scandal, Williams has been suspended for six months without pay by NBC, although quite frankly it will be hard for him to rebuild a shattered reputation in absentia with the ability to return to the news desk as a credible news reader.

Muckraking scandals at the early part of the last century where sensationalized news was all the rage in print did much damage to the industry. And ever since Watergate captivated the nation (1972-74) every cub journalist wants to be the next Woodward and Bernstein. Too often so-called journalists inject themselves into stories or shape a story to fit some cause celeb they have – such as the recent Rolling Stone University of Virginia rape story. This kind of salacious lying only hurts the profession as a whole. Couple that with the Jayson Blairs of the world – he a former New York Times scribe who not only plagiarized stories, but fabricated his undergraduate degree credentials by falsifying his resume to say he graduated from the University of Maryland – a genuine embarrassment to those of us who actually did earn a degree from Maryland.

Add to the mix another case of cheating – cheating by adults meant to benefit children, yet ultimately that hurt children. A report surfaced just days following the resolution of the Williams’ lying scandal, that the winner of the Little League International United States championship game employed ineligible players.

The Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago disgraced the team’s namesake by amending the boundaries demarcating from where the players must reside. In winning its game against Mountain Ridge Little League, Jackie Robinson West “earned” the right to play in the international championship game versus South Korea, which it ultimately lost. However, as part of the penalty for cheating, Jackie Robinson West’s victories have been vacated, thus giving the American title to the Mountain Ridge team it defeated from Las Vegas.

This was an unfortunate situation for the boys who played for the Jackie Robinson West team, as it is unlikely they knowingly participated in the chicanery that gave the team an ill-gotten advantage, yet by having their victories stripped from them, they are the ones who suffer.

While it was adults who conspired to stack the deck for the Jackie Robinson West team, the team must suffer the consequences as not only a teachable moment for the boys to understand that cheaters don’t win and winners don’t cheat, but it is the right thing to do – vacating the national title and giving it to the Las Vegas runner up who played by the rules.

It is sad that the adults in the Chicago boys’ lives believed they had to falsify boundaries, records, and cheat in order to win. It is sadder still that this episode may discourage these boys or other inner city youths from participating in something as wholesome and confidence building as little league baseball, when according to a number of the parents, these boys could have been roaming the streets committing acts of thuggery or worse.

“What would you have us do, Little League, for them to be killed on the streets of Chicago,” asked Venisa Green, mother of son Brandon, a player on the Jackie Robinson West team.

In light of this cheating scandal, wholesale suspensions were meted out by Little League International, including the team manager Darold Butler and a district official involved with the gerrymandering of the boundaries. Even Jesse Jackson felt compelled to offer his two cents, asking “Is this about boundaries or race,” with absolutely no proof to make such an allegation. But that is Jackson simply being Jackson.

While nobody wants to see these boys killed because they live in less than desirable neighborhoods, that is not an excuse for cheating – akin to suggesting a means to an ends is acceptable when considering the potential alternative. It is the adults in these boys’ lives who cheated their sons, and while the sons are suffering for the sins of the fathers, there should be a lifelong take away for the boys – that cheating is not the answer, it doesn’t pay, and they should remember this pain when raising their own sons or daughters who will hopefully take to the field of play some day.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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