Sideline Slants

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Judge: The case of the People vs. Sports in Education will now commence. The people have filed charges claiming that sports are not providing an education for its participants. The plaintiff may proceed and make its case on behalf of the people.


Plaintiff: Your honor, we all know that some things just naturally go together ? Ham and eggs, airlines and lost luggage, politicians and long speeches, sports and lying.


Defendant: Objection, your honor. The plaintiff is way out of line in his opening statement.


Judge: Overruled. I will allow the plaintiff some leeway in establishing his case. However, if the plaintiff doesn’t have evidence to support his allegations, I reserve the right to overrule him at a later time.


Plaintiff: Thanks, your honor. Admittedly, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it’s clear that sports is a field of contradictions.


On the one hand, we say we teach and value fair play while applauding deception.


For example, athletes use their skills to fake out opponents on the basketball court. Coaches devise misdirection plays to trick opponents in football. Soccer athletes use fancy footwork to make opponents think they are going one way, when in fact they plan to go another.


Coaches implore their basketball players not to telegraph their passes. In other words, don’t be so honest because we won’t win the game.


Sports also encourage stealing. For example, it’s permissible to steal bases or signs in baseball and softball.


Defendant: Objection, your honor. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of deception. It’s part of the game. It’s accepted by all of society.


Plaintiff: Counsel is right. That kind of on-the-field behavior is accepted. However, there’s another side of sports that is very troublesome.


How many athletes use illegal drugs to enhance their performance?


How many volunteer coaches and parents abuse rules in recreation programs so their teams can win?


How many college coaches knowingly violate recruiting rules?


Defendant: So there are a few problems. We never said we’re perfect. The fact remains that sports provide youth with tremendous educational opportunities.


Plaintiff: Ah, yes. I’ve heard the argument for years now. Honestly, do you mean to tell me that sports are as educational as some other school activities?


Let me quote Fred Engh, president of the National Alliance for Youth Sports: “It’s ironic that nobody yells at a child who forgets some lines during a play, who misspells a word during a spelling bee, or who hits the wrong key during a piano recital. But when it comes to sports, if a youngster drops a ball, misses a tackle, or allows the opposing team to score, look out, because that child will hear about it from the parents.”


Engh goes on: “The unruly behaviors of parents have had a truly disheartening effect on youth sports. The innocence that once existed on playing fields has been swept away as children today are forced to play in volatile environments where games are just as likely to end in fights as handshakes. The pleasure of simply playing has long since vanished and the parents must shoulder a large share of the blame.”


Defendant: Your honor, the prosecution is guilty of exaggeration. I know plenty of good parents and conscientious coaches.


Plaintiff: I agree. I’m not saying that sports should be eliminated. However, the behavior of too many players, coaches, administrators and parents indicates that participating in sports is not educational.


Defendant: Your honor, athletics has made a significant impact on millions of Americans. You can’t let the plaintiff get away with such sweeping generalizations.


Judge: This is a difficult case. You both have valid points. I empathize with the plaintiff. He made an excellent case. However, setting emotion aside, I have to rule in favor of the defendant.


Plaintiff: But, how?


Defendant: Ha! I knew we’d win. Sports is all about winning and we won. You’re a loser.


Judge: My complete ruling is that sports provide our youth an education, all right, and it’s frequently a bad one.

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