Winning Isn’t Everything – Or Is It?

25Jun16

When I was thinking about this blog yesterday, this was not the topic I had intended to write about. Normally when I think of blogging it is something that is fun and an outlet for me, but then I also realized in a way it is a bit of a forum to express my thoughts and opinions about what goes on around me. This particular topic is something that has been hanging around for years but has become more relevant to me over the last several days. It brings up the question:

Is winning more important than morality?

It may seem like something of a silly question when you look at the big picture, but give me a moment to explain where I am going with this. As some of you may know, I am a huge baseball fan and in particular a Mets fan. My profile pictures in my various social media accounts are all pictures of me with Mr. Met. Heck even my profile picture for my blogs is of me with my son at Shea Stadium. I have been a Mets fan for over 40 years, am an avid collector of baseball memorabilia, have lots of t-shirts, hats and jerseys, have hard partial season tickets to Mets games for years, am a contributor to the Baseball Hall of Fame every year and much more that involves baseball. I was thrilled last year when the Mets, after many seasons, made it back to the World Series. I watch every game when I came and I follow the sport pretty closely. I would say all of that qualifies me as I pretty good fan. I love my team and root hard for them.

But lately I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. The Mets are struggling a bit(what else is new) and need a boost to their offense. An option makes itself available to them later this afternoon when Jose Reyes, a former Mets star, becomes a free agent. I was a big fan of Reyes; he is an All-Star player, a homegrown Met, and was a part of the team building itself back up before he left via free agency a few years ago. Under normal circumstances, the idea of him coming back to play would be fantastic and I would be thrilled to have him here, even though he is older and his skills have diminished somewhat. That’s not the problem for me. The problem is he is coming off a suspension under the domestic violence policy of Major League Baseball. There was an incident last year in Colorado where he was arrested and charged with a domestic violence crime for abusing his wife. The charges were eventually dropped (primarily because his wife subsequently refused to testify in the case against him) so he was never formally convicted of the crime, but the event did occur; there is no denying it.

So now comes the conundrum. The Mets are strongly considered to be the team to sign him today. This brings, to my mind, a problem in that signing him to play sends the wrong message. To me, it tells your fan base, particularly your female fan base but everyone that follows the team (including young women and men) that having a team that has a better chance to win is more important than what he may have done.Granted, having him on the team may not have any impact at all; as I said his skills are not what they were even just 5 years ago, but that’s not the point. The point is by agreeing to pay him a salary to play it condones and overlooks the actions.

The Reyes incident is just one recent example. You would be hard-pressed to find any professional sports team today that has not had a player or personnel involved in some type of crime, incident or scandal. Part of why it seems so prevalent today is that there is much more news coverage and social media use than ever before so more things are caught on tape, pictures or reported on than they were thirty years ago or more. Scandals in sports have existed for decades, they just may not have gotten the same attention that they get today. But why is it that society chooses to overlook these misgivings in athletes? Sure, they are people, men and women, just like you and me and make mistakes. That’s a given. I am sure you probably know people in your own life that have had incidents with the law, scandals of their own, and you have to deal with them still.

I think part of the issue is that athletes, because of what they do and the exposure they get, are held up as role models by many people. People see their abilities and pay to see them play and do what many only ever dream about. Kids watch players and idolize them, wanting to do what they do. And today, many parents want their kids to feel this way, whether it is to let their child follow a dream, to live vicariously through what they are doing or to have a shot at fame and fortune. Personally, I have never been one to hold up athletes as role models or heroes. Yes, it’s fun to watch what they can do, but if you want a role model for yourself or your child I think there are plenty of great people who are not on television or the Internet every day, that just do good things, that are more worthy of being looked up to. And just as you would explain to your child when someone in your area or someone you know does something wrong why it is that it was wrong, you should be willing to do the same thing when an athlete they know does something wrong, whether it is Jose Reyes, Michael Phelps, Ray Rice, Mark McGwire, Maria Sharapova or any other well-known athlete that they want to emulate.

Is everyone entitled to a second chance and a chance to redeem bad acts they may have done? I think so and there are plenty of people – sports players, athletes, celebrities, politicians and people we see in everyday life – that have gotten that chance. Some have made the effort to change while others fall back into bad behavior. There’s no way to know what will happen until that second chance occurs. In the end, it all comes down to personal choice I guess. Will the Mets lose fans if they sign Jose Reyes? Probably not and even if they do, they likely see the number as insignificant. I abhor what he has done and personally can’t root for him as a player anymore. Will I still watch the Mets and root for the team? In all likelihood yes and I know that seems hypocritical, which I think brings us full circle back to my original question. Our society has become one where winning does trump morality in many situations. The win at all costs mentality is there in many facets of our lives today – sports, politics, technology, business and just about any other place that you look – and to me, it’s a sad thing that I am part of. While I certainly don’t feel like winning is the most important thing and I try to impress that ideal on my son, it is also hard to deny that I want to see the team I have rooted for since I was a child succeed. So I’ll continue to watch, I’ll hope that Jose Reyes makes some type of contrition, tries to do the right thing with the rest of his life and goes on. Would I  be glad if he decided to go somewhere else to play? Yes. Is that likely to happen? It doesn’t seem like it. No one is forcing me to watch, be a fan, buy memorabilia or go to games. It is a conscious choice I will make, but I admit I’m not sure if I feel right about it.

So where does that leave you? Do you think winning has become more important than morality, ethics or doing the right thing? Does something like this impact how you perceive your favorite team, player or sport? I’m curious to see how others feel about. Let me know with a comment. Until next time, the office door is open…

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