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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Be a sport!

In the premier event in the world's most popular sport, the French team qualified for the World Cup finals. (Yes, the sport is something the rest of the world calls football but we in the USA call it soccer.) How did the French beat the Irish for this most coveted berth in the World Cup finals? They cheated, that's how. The captain of the French team purposely and admittedly used his hand to deflect the ball which lead to a deciding score.

Everyone but the referee saw the infraction. It was  played and replayed in the world's media... especially in Ireland, the victim country. Everyone agrees (including the Federation Internationale de Football Association or, FIFA) that it was not fair, not legal and not right. The French are embarrassed and, from what I read, almost ashamed... "Qualifying for the finals through a foul, violating the spirit of the sport--it almost makes us lower our heads in shame."  The key word here is "almost." They are not ashamed, but almost ashamed.

The official ruling: Nada. Nothing. Or nil, as they say in football. The worst of the outcome though might be what the French team captain and cheater, Thierry Henry said: "I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the referee. I played it, the referee allowed it. That's a question you should ask him." In other words, it wasn't my fault. If the referee didn't see it and call it, then it didn't happen, right?

Oh, soccer isn't alone in the world of cheating. This is just the latest good example of a bad example.

It has long been admired by fans as a "good play" if an athlete can fool the referee, or umpire. In baseball and football, a player who 'traps' a ball that has bounced on the turf tries to make it look like a great catch. How about the cagey pitchers who throw a 'spitter' or 'rough up the ball with a hidden emery board or piece of sandpaper. (Some of these guys are in the Hall of Fame.) Do hitters cork bats or is Sammy Sousa just darned good? A basketball player that 'flops' to dupe the ref into a call is cheered by the fans if it works. This is especially true in the NBA which is why some of those games start to resemble pro wrestling.  

Don't even get me started on steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. I guess the best way we neatly handle it is to put an asterisk beside the records those guys have broken.

Next thing you know, they will be trying to tie a tin can around Tiger Woods' tail when all the poor guy ever did was make a diaper run at 2:45 am and accidentally brush a fire hydrant and tree. What will they dream of next?

OK, so that's a little sarcastic. But don't we deserve some honor in our sports... and in our world? I'm more than a little tired of reading every day about people in sports who cheat, lie, justify bizarre actions and want to be called role models... and that goes double for politicians and hungry millionaires too. Aren't you?

Say it ain't so, guys. Or since you can't do that, why do we continue to be the saps who pay to see them play or re-elect them. Maybe we are the problem.

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