Sunday, January 21, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Youth sports cheating starts early

In the end, for some momentary glory, was it really worth it? Is that the bargain basement price for a championship? For when Armwood High School found itself on the goal line of success, it punted away its integrity.

All this conniving, all this duplicity, all this lying — for a lousy, stinking trophy? Really?

Because Armwood coaches and administrators, who after all are supposed to be role models for honesty (cough, cough), sold themselves out for some cheap cheers, the school has been stripped of its 2011 15-0 perfect record and its state championship title.

Now the record is 0-15 — a perfect chumpionship. It never had to be this way. Armwood, long a state power, certainly could have had a winning season without salting the lineup with ineligible ringers, who falsified their residency to join the team.

No doubt there are plenty of Armwood players who played by the rules on the way to the team's inglorious season. High school and all the activities associated with the adolescent rite of passage are supposed to be an especially memorable time in a kid's life.

But for the members of the Fighting Con Men, they will be forever tainted by their association with a dirty program. Welcome to Life Stinks 101, kids. Enjoy the class.

Perhaps you're thinking what happened at Armwood is some sort of ethical aberration. Isn't that cute?

Chances are, while Armwood is being stripped, "Branded"-like, of its title and scores, if not more, other athletic program officials statewide also are sleeping a little more fitfully these days.

We live in a culture of cheating when it comes to sports — NFL bounties, juiced-up baseball players and even the Tour de France, which should more properly be renamed the Tour de Keith Richards. And horse racing's I'll Have Another's trainer, Doug O'Neill, is facing several suspensions around the country for doping up horses.

If I had been more prescient, I probably could have predicted that someday a football program like Armwood would eventually come to be regarded at the Teapot Dome of goal posts.

Years ago, we naively signed up our sons for youth baseball, where I was astounded to find coaches cheating as early as T-Ball. T-Ball!?!?! Sheesh, this was like short-sheeting Mr. Rogers' bed.

And it only got worse, with other coaches "coaching" kids not to try so hard in tryouts, or intentionally striking out in batting practice, so some other unsuspecting coach wouldn't select them.

I even had one coach admit he had lied to my son when he told him everyone on the team would get the same playing time. Or put another way, a grown man knowingly lied to a 10-year-old about a meaningless baseball game.

If you are a young parent, be advised the greatest fabrication, prevarication and fib in the world is the one the youth sports coach tells you: "We're just here to have fun." Run away, run away, run away.

The Armwood coaching staff and school administration didn't awaken from a Simon Pure sleep and think to themselves: "Hey I got an idea! Let's cook the books to get some superstars. Who's ever gonna find out?"

These things take time with slow, little corner cutting, eventually rising to the big jock strap grift.

Soiled reputations in the pursuit of winning meant nothing as long as the score turned out the right way.

But the systemic culture of cheating began a long time ago when a T-Ball coach bent the rules in the blind pursuit of defeating some toddlers.

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