EDITORIAL: Right vs. wrong
June 7, 2011By E. Shawn Aylsworth of Hoosier Authority
By E. Shawn Aylsworth
HoosierAuthority.com has been online for six years and three months, yet I have never written an editorial.
You might find that fact strange – I do. After all, as the managing editor of a high school sports website, I am the one in charge of all the content that ends up on my site. It is my job to know a little (or, preferably, a lot) about 20 different sports, and to that end see that the content that appears on this site – be it stories, pictures, video – is presented in as clear and as professional a manner as possible.
But there’s a caveat. Anyone who knows me also knows that I have (understatement alert!) a warped sense of humor. Over the years that we’ve been online, I have gone overboard to make sure that that personally challenging aspect of my behavior rarely, if ever, enters into said content. (For those of you who have enjoyed the Uncle Mike vs. Cousin Ed postseason picks saga, you know that this is the one area in which I take some liberties.)
But I digress – as usual, most would say. As I’ve sauntered along for more than a half-dozen years on what a former business partner called “this project,” the world around me has changed. And in my humble opinion, it has not changed for the better.
A quick glance at the daily headlines shows us all the things that have gone horribly wrong in the 21st century, from high school shootings to tsunamis that cause nuclear meltdowns to politicians evidently forgetting that their behavior – noble or otherwise – now can be monitored 24/7 in this age of technology. For whatever reason, that last subject – politics – has become perhaps my overwhelming passion, maybe because much of the bad stuff that’s in the news every day is being perpetrated by people who have been chosen, by democratic vote, to represent us.
I’ll leave the details of my passion out, but suffice to say I have a very loud voice elsewhere where it comes to sharing my opinion on said matters. Why, you ask? Because, like so many things, the subject to me can easily be broken down thusly:
Right vs. wrong.
I was fortunate enough to have been raised by both parents, who were married for 40 years before my father died in 1992. (My mother, who died a little over five years ago, would have been celebrating her 80th birthday today, and I have to think that may have a little to do with the motivation for this piece.) Despite the usual assortment of family dysfunction, they raised me to study hard, play hard, and always – ALWAYS – do the right thing.
That sense of right vs. wrong has only grown stronger over the years, to the point where perhaps it has reached a level of fanaticism inside my head nowadays. I rarely see things that are gray – usually it’s black and white … or right and wrong. That might not make me the most well-adjusted individual on the planet, but it certainly provides me with a daily dose of perspective from which to operate.
What’s my point, especially as it pertains to high school sports? I’m getting there. But first you need to know two things about me: 1) I have never settled down and married, and 2) I do not have children.
So what makes me qualified to run a website that involves children playing high school sports? I would like to think that playing sports every year from age 4 until last year – be it driveway basketball or grade school volleyball or high school baseball or adult slow-pitch softball – would qualify me to a certain level of understanding. While I was the most valuable player of the Lawrence Central High School baseball team my senior year in 1984, I was also the guy who made the last out of my last high school game down one run in the bottom of the seventh inning waiving at a 3-2 pitch … that was ball four.
While I have had some successes, then, I also have had a lot more experience with losing. And though it seems all but forgotten in this day and age that not everybody can win, the fact remains that people lose. Let me repeat that: PEOPLE LOSE. And if you ask me, learning how to lose gracefully and with your dignity intact is the very biggest lesson an athlete (or parent or coach) can take away from the high school sports experience.
Get to the point, Shawn – I know. So here it is.
My business partner sent me an e-mail today asking me to remove a story on the Huntington North golf sectional written by one of our National Sports Journalism Center interns, Scott Hunt, from the Eastbrook school page. (You can check out the story by clicking here.)
Scott is a couple years younger than me and was a member of the Marion boys basketball team that won state championships in 1986 and ’87 – the Lyndon Jones/Jay Edwards teams. So suffice to say that Mr. Hunt knows a little bit about winning.
He also knows a little about losing, as evidenced by how he wrote his story on the sectional golf meet. But far more importantly, a pair of athletes he wrote about in that article knows a LOT more about how to lose … gracefully and with dignity.
Without mentioning specific names – you can get that in the story that I refused to take down – it seems that Eastbrook had wrapped up the third and final regional-qualifying spot with its efforts under a melting sun at LaFontaine. But one of the Panthers’ players had taken an improper drop and subsequently signed an improper score card at the end of his round, earning him a disqualification.
A golfer for Huntington North who was keeping score for his Eastbrook competitor had brought the mistake to the attention of officials after both players had signed the incorrect card, and he was also disqualified. The unfortunate but properly handled mistake resulted in Eastbrook’s 324 dropping to a 338, meaning the Panthers would not be advancing to regionals.
My business partner’s input on the matter was as follows: “They have a brand new athletic director just starting this week, and I do not want the first thing he sees on the site to be a story about his kids screwing up. I think you can probably appreciate that.”
My take? Yes, as a businessman I can appreciate that. But as a journalist, I also can appreciate the fact that pretending something didn’t happen is absolutely not the way to proceed – especially in this time of political (in)correctness that exposes a deep abyss in the desperately lacking areas of personal responsibility and accountability.
And especially when two young gentlemen have set the perfect example of how to handle adversity.
Will this new AD be upset that his kids “screwed up”? Perhaps. But as someone who has played the games for a very long time – and lost the games in every dreamed-up scenario you can think of, right down to making three errors on a play as catcher in a Little League game – I feel the larger issue is not the toes of a new athletic director but instead the very kids on the team as well as the parents and communities involved who can look at this episode and realize that it was handled … wonderfully.
Those kids sweating their behinds off on the course could have cheated, they could have looked the other way, they could have done a number of duplicitous things. But they chose to act with grace and dignity – not only toward themselves but to the game and everyone involved in putting on the tournament – with action that caused one of the schools involved to make a huge sacrifice.
And that’s the way it oughta be, don’t you think?
We would love to hear your input on this subject or any other regarding sportsmanship and the way journalism operates today, so feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you ...