Dear Little League International:
Welcome to the party!
By stripping Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West team of its title, you confirmed the sad but obvious fact that cheating is everywhere, including Little League baseball.
Many successful teams have come under fire by coaches and parents, usually in private, for allegedly breaking the rules. Sour grapes aside, it is startling that, when pressed for more detail, virtually every coach follows his accusation the same way:
Everybody does it.
One doesn’t have to be a baseball aficionado to understand that, if that’s true, you must either crack down hard on every violation, or change the rules. But retaining the status quo will only fuel people’s perception that Little League is not the wholesome organization it once was.
America’s game, and more importantly, the integrity of our children — our future — is at stake.
The American Public
The Little League revelation should come as no surprise, except to those who deliberately keep their eyes wide shut.
Corruption and hypocrisy have become part of the American fabric, woven into every strand of society. And since young people mimic who and what they see — the good, and even more, the bad — it’s no wonder that trend is skyrocketing.
Why would a youth baseball team cheat? Why wouldn’t they?
After all, even children are aware that cheaters prosper, since society conveniently looks the other way when their "heroes" break the rules. Given the lack of negative consequences, why wouldn’t our children want to emulate them?
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots allegedly deflated some footballs, making them easier to throw and catch.
So what if "someone" deflated a few balls below the league’s mandated pressure minimum? Big deal. Does any rational person really believe the NFL will penalize the Patriots by stripping them of their incredible last-second Super Bowl victory?
Of course not. And why?
Because few actually care about DeflateGate. Oh, many feign surprise with "how-could-that-happen?" self-righteous indignation. But the truth is, Americans have come to overlook such things so long as there’s a perceived benefit.
In DeflateGate, the benefit was seeing if Brady, love him or hate him, could become part of NFL immortality by winning his fourth Super Bowl, and if the Patriots could regain their swagger by denying the Seattle Seahawks back-to-back championships. Now that both achievements are in the books, the NFL’s "internal investigation" will likely go right into the garbage.
Lesson: It doesn’t matter if you bend the rules or deflate them altogether, so long as you win.
What about the tacit approval by Major League Baseball and its fans of banned drugs during the "steroid era?" Let’s be honest. The league and fans knew steroid use was rampant just by looking at players’ "miraculous" physical transformations, not to mention their superhuman accomplishments that smashed decades-old records with ease.
And guess what? No one cared, at least not enough to force a change. As the famous saying goes, "chicks dig the long ball." So long as home runs and high-scoring games were guaranteed, fans were fine with steroid use. And so was a league that watched billions flow through its doors, particularly important since baseball had been in danger of going under after the 1994 strike.
Lesson to kids: Take steroids to get better, and people will look the other way.
The problem, of course, is that it’s not OK. It should not be acceptable to look the other way or break the rules whenever convenient. Doing so creates a slippery slope where it’s no longer just footballs and baseballs, but criminal acts and societal breakdown.
When corruption and hypocrisy pervade every level of society, trust is eroded to the point where citizens lose faith in government, business, sports and even themselves. And at that point, America becomes like every other second- and third-world nation that eschews personal responsibility in favor of a "do-whatever-you-have-to-do" to get ahead attitude, including running roughshod over people and rules to get there.
It’s clearly not just sports where we see the line between right and wrong getting obliterated. Consider:
The media: Among many examples, we have $10 million a year network news anchor Brian Williams, who admitted to fabricating (and progressively embellishing) a major news story, and whose veracity on other stories continues to be questioned. Despite having lost all credibility, however, his punishment is a mere six-month suspension.
Lesson: Lying is OK, even after you get caught.
Religion: A widespread pedophilia sex scandal rocks the Catholic church to the highest levels, but we’re told that they were just isolated cases, that there was no wink-wink code between priests, both those involved in the acts and those looking the other way to protect their fellow clergymen and their own careers. Ditto for the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal. Why did the investigation drag on for so long, permitting the predator to remain free?
Business: Wall Street corruption is rampant, from shady accounting techniques to investment banks using inside information to bet against their own clients. Yet, time and again, the only penalty is a timid slap on the wrist while the millionaires get richer, the average Joe gets shafted, the rules barely change, and the firms "too big to fail" continue to cozy up to the very regulators who are supposed to be keeping them in check.
Lesson: If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.
Entertainment: It’s the height of hypocrisy when the same people who rail so adamantly against pornography and exploitation of women fawn over "50 Shades Of Grey," which, putting it kindly, is pornographic by its nature. And many of those protesting child abuse and violence are huge fans of "The Hunger Games," which glorifies kids killing kids. The point here is not to censor Hollywood — they need to do that themselves — but to illustrate yet another example of massive inconsistency.
Individuals: Employees account for more retail theft than shoplifters, corporate stealing continues to grow, and fraud in workers’ compensation claims and other government programs is at an all-time high, all part of the entitlement "let-me-get-mine" mentality. Too many justify their actions in the belief that any entity with deep pockets won’t miss whatever is stolen, and "no one gets hurt."
Except that we do. Not just because we, as a society, end up paying the bill, but that we lose more of our soul every time we convince ourselves that cheating and hypocrisy are acceptable. Or worse, when we know something is wrong, yet sit back and do nothing.
Let’s hope the silent majority finds its moral compass and starts speaking up, or America’s promise of "liberty and justice for all" will soon be completely deflated.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday and occasionally on Friday. He can be reached at [email protected].