Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sports Are Not Important

Of all the nastiness the Sandusky scandal has exposed about our American society's misdriven values, this may be the slightest: sports are not important. 

Penn State's disregard for human safety or cover-up for a skilled football coach emphasizes that winning at a game trumps education, or heck, human ethics.

Relying on sports for income or fame rots educational institutions and eventually society. It happened on a large scale at Penn State, but don't disillusion yourself: it trickles down into our nation's high schools. The worship of sports goes beyond college football, especially now as the Olympics play out.

My congressman, Aaron Schock, introduced The Olympic Tax Elimination Act. Why? Because these athletes (whose training is their job, who are heavily rewarded, and who voluntarily chose a profession where the risks outweigh the possible reward) deserve it? Who deserves such a break? Surely in our society with lagging test scores and busting prisons, surely - the answer cannot be athletes.

Just as Penn State's administrators and Congressman Aaron Schock know, Americans will pay big bucks for entertainment, and this shows what a country values. The idea that entertainment, that having fun is the main goal in life, will not sustain us. At one point, hard work was the only way to survive. Without impending starvation or death, people now take it easy - relax - sit back, for a continual and passive flow of entertainment. The price for valuing sports above education and safety is evident, and heavily documented.

Before heading to the comment section and accusing me of "not getting it" - let me assure you I do. I have sat in the stands as a proud teacher and sister, and many years ago, stood close to the action as a pep band member and cheerleader. I understand the power of a crowd, the rush and connectedness when your team triumphs. I have never failed to stop and watch when my country's anthem plays while an athlete stands atop the podium. Honoring people who set records in their fields - whose work has paid off - is a nice aspect of American culture.

I have also listened to students give speeches about coaches who taught them never to give up. I've seen the same students apply strong work ethics to class work. Young children learn valuable social skills and healthy exercise behaviors. Sports have benefits. They are not meant to be the big picture, however, but rather a small part of the development of children - who ultimately shape our society.

Athletes are not paid to be role models. They are paid to run fast, throw a ball into a hoop, or twirl. Giving them statues or tax breaks emphasizes the message that sports are what our culture values. A small tribute is appropriate; what athletes actually receive is inappropriate.

I can't imagine placing the success of a football team ahead of young men's physical and mental health. I also can't explain to my children why our congressman wants to emphasize the importance of athletes over real role models. Adults should look past Sunday nights and the fleeting thrill of record breaking events to find what will better their children. Valuing the cheap and veneer shapes landfills, not futures.

Sports are extra - not the purpose in education. We hold such potential to teach our youth values - values in education, kindness, giving, God, clean living - anything that betters their lives and our society. Placing athletes above real role models, giving them passes, providing tax breaks is dangerous. The evidence is in our youth.