Hoping for a Comeback of Fair Play

Friday, July 27, 2007

Recent news articles have me thinking about what makes sports special. It's isn't the superstars, highlight replays or fabulous finishes. No, what makes sports special is honesty -- simple honesty.

Barry Bonds is closing in on one of the most famous records in sports: Henry Aaron's career mark of 755 major league home runs. Many people think that Bonds used illegal drugs called steroids to make himself stronger. Bonds has denied it, but the suspicion that he cheated has taken a lot of the fun out of his home-run chase.

The Tour de France is a unique sporting event. Hundreds of world-class cyclists race through France for three weeks each summer. But in recent years, so many riders -- including last year's winner, Floyd Landis, and several riders this year (see Today's News) -- have been accused of taking drugs to help them that the grueling race no longer seems special.

And now there are reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether former National Basketball Association referee Tim Donaghy bet on games that he officiated. NBA fans are left to wonder whether Donaghy blew his whistle during games because he saw a foul or because he wanted to win money on a bet.

Sports are fun only when the competition is fair and honest. If we think someone is cheating or not playing fair, the games that used to thrill us make us sad and angry instead.

The stories I've listed are from professional sports. What about kids' sports? To keep them honest and special, there are three simple things that players, coaches and parents should remember:

· First, give an honest effort. That means try your hardest every time you play. Competition works best when everyone gives everything they've got, and the best player or team that day comes out on top. No excuses, no complaining about the referees, no saying you didn't really want to win.

· Second, play fair and by the rules. Kids, coaches and parents should never cut corners or try to get away with anything in their games. Breaking, or even bending, the rules should not be allowed.

· Finally, learn to accept defeat. Understand that losing is part of the game, not the end of the world. Every great athlete, from Michael Jordan to Mia Hamm, has had to deal with defeat and disappointment. When players and coaches seem willing to do anything to win, the results are often less than satisfying. That's what has happened to Barry Bonds and the Tour de France.

Sports are moving in the wrong direction these days. We all need to get our games back -- honestly.

http://Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is an author of sports novels for kids.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company