Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Winning Is NOT The Only Thing... Period.

As we sit here still digesting and sifting through the results from last night's GOP Super Tuesday contests, some of the attitudes of certain candidates - as well as certain talking heads - lead us to focus on another story today, one that's been overlooked by many outside of sports media.

If you're not a rabid NFL fan, you might have missed the scandal that recently blew up in the face of the NFL. What we're talking about isn't cheating on football. It could just as easily be called death-ball, or stretcher-ball - or more accurately, bounty ball.

Put bluntly, NFL players were given bonus money for purposely injuring opponents, and even knocking them out of games.

The Saints' defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, was the first person the investigation focused on, though it's now clear that several other teams, coaches, and players all broke the rules of the National Football League. They also violated the terms of their own player and coaching contracts, and the bylaws of the NFL Players Union.

To some people, this scandal in the NFL may not seem to be a surprise, any more than when politicians are caught cheating to win elections.

That, sadly, is our point - one that we've made a number of times in this space.

The attitudes that we've seen take over the GOP Presidential primaries and caucuses this year, and throughout politics - especially over the last few years - has been a take-no-prisioners, kill 'em all, win at all costs attitude, we've previously described as "Winner-ment". It's an attitude we've warned about for years, especially leading up to the 2010 midterm elections.

Sadly, over the last two years, we've been proven right - as anyone from any political background can see.

In 2010, the Republican Party did the same thing the New Orleans Saints did - whatever it took to win, ethics, morals, and legality be damned. Because of that attitude, the Republicans won, and won big in 2010. But what did they do with that win? Not one damn thing. Why? Because we don't have Winner-ments guiding the actions of our cities, states, and nations. We have GOVERNments.

That "winning at all costs" theory is one that's all too familiar to kids who break their parent's rules: As long as no one gets caught, no one will get in trouble, and no one will know, right?

Of course, in the case of the NFL, it's obvious people now know what happened - and people will get hurt. Players, coaches, and teams will be fined, likely to the tune of millions of dollars. Fans will have to see teams, coaches, and players they respected revealed as cheats & frauds. With suspensions and distrust, teams will likely underperform, and sell less tickets, harming the paychecks of everyone associated with the team.

Even if the Saints bounty scheme hadn't been discovered, don't think no one knew. As Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN recently reported, he saw the same game plan used in the NFL implemented by a high school coach in our DC area - injure the opponents and win at all costs. That coach obviously thought his methods were ok - and after all, his team won, so no harm, right? Except, of course, to the kids on the opposing team who were taken off the field on stretchers - and to the minds of the young men on the team who now think that the ends always justify the means.

To us, Easterbrook's integrity was damaged too, by not telling others what the high school coach did, and doing nothing with that knowledge.

The lesson from this NFL scandal - and the ongoing political battle - is the same: When we compete with one another, regardless of the contest, winning at all costs has the highest price of all.

If we don't have our integrity, winning isn't the only thing. In fact, it's not anything worth having.

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