“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the ONLY thing”
UCLA Football Coach Henry Russell “Red” Sanders

This famous quote is often attributed to Vince Lombardi but it is possible that he borrowed the quote from a UCLA Bruin coach.

The question is… is winning the ONLY thing? It would be easy to think that if you watched a steady diet of multi-billion dollar professional sports or the multiple feeds of 24 hour news cycle sports on networks like ESPN, Fox News and others. Teams do whatever it takes to win. Players are cut, traded, benched, yelled at, coddled and beyond – with the hopes of getting more performance.

Robert CraftWhat is truly sad is when professional sports leads to cheating. A good example is the New England Patriots led by one of the winningest NFL coaches of all time and powered by the “greatest of all time” GOAT quarterback, Tom Brady. It is widely alleged that The Patriots snuck a person in to record the Philadelphia Eagles scripted, opening drive practice right before the 2005 Super Bowl. The outcome of the game was 24-21 thus the advantage gained could have been the difference. Patriots coach, Bill Belicheck has been accused of this type of high tech cheating since stealing a Super Bowl. On top of that was the whole “deflate gate” drama in an NFL playoff game in freezing temperatures, the Patriots organization AGAIN was accused and penalized by the National Football League for supposedly providing their team with footballs with less air in them thus making them easier to catch. Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, is an associate of another known cheater (wives, taxes, golf and beyond) in Donald Trump. He shows how classy he is by poorly tipping the sex trafficked woman at the rub and tug massage joint in Florida. Just because you are a member of the most exclusive club (NFL owners) in the world doesn’t mean you are held to high ethics but you should.

Barry Bonds

The is a lot of historical writing on the Black Sox scandal of 1919 where the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the World Series in exchange for money from mobster, Arnold Rothstein. But that’s ancient history, right? Nope. The Houston Astros of Major League Baseball were using cameras and a simplistic drum system to relay pitching signals in the 2017 season all the way to “winning” the World Series in 2018 versus the stacked Los Angeles Dodgers. And for this gross act of fraud – the team gets to keep the pennant and was fined a few million dollars when star players in the MLB make five, six or ten times the amount of said fine. Here’s a video showing how the Astros cheated using the drum.

Cheating in baseball is nothing new. After a player lockout, the need to re-energize the game was higher than ever before. Enter the steroid era. Players were shooting all sorts of growth hormones and performance enhancing drugs in plain sight of league officials. And with hardballs flying out of the park and ratings soaring just as fast – Major League Baseball turned a blind eye on this practice. Today many of the players know best for juicing are being kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame by the sport writers who still respect the integrity of the sport. And good for them for having some standards.

One of the important lessons that kids can learn from the game of golf is that it is a game of policing itself. The rules of golf can be brutal at times. Imagine smoking a drive 280 yards down the fairway and finding your ball in some jackass’ unfilled divot? Guess what? Like in life, you have to deal with the random bad luck and play on which is a tough but important life lesson. The game of golf is about playing by a code of ethics and following them because it is the right and just thing to to. Is winning at any sport worth selling out your integrity. While living in Los Angeles but not being a huge Dodgers fan (I might be the only one) it was hard not to love seeing them win the World Series in 2020 after not just the ravages of COVID but the absurd cheating scandal that cost them a well-deserved World Series from the Astros.

Just because the leader of the free world, corporate CEOs, pharmaceutical families and Wall Street scumbags cheat – doesn’t mean you have to. Teaching kids ethics in sports is one of the most important reasons why we get them to play and coach them along the way.

Just when you think sports is all about money, power and greed – I dare to bring up my University of Southern California Trojan’s recent long snapper, Jake Olsen. Long snapper isn’t the most glamorous position on the field but in this case Mr. Olsen’s play is extra ordinary. Jake Olsen is blind. In the video below USC is beating the pants off of Washington late in the fourth quarter. With a field goal attempt coming up, USC’s coach communicates with the Washington coach that they want to bring Olsen in for some live action. He snaps the ball and the kicker does his kicker thing for 3 meaningless points but the point made was anything but meaningless in the pantheon of sports. Hope is not lost. Fight on.