Winning clouds character of athletes

One of sports’ oldest adages is a little misunderstood and goes like this: Winning is everything.

So as long as a team is winning, no one really cares about how they’re doing it. So as long as a player wins, nothing that player does can be all that bad. After all, bad people can’t possibly be winners, right?

Everyone forgets Tiger’s deeds once he begins to win again. (AP Photo)

Wrong.

We’ve seen this time and time again. Winners in sporting competitions are far from the heroes we make them out to be, and sadly are rarely worthy of the celebrations we throw in their honor.

And they aren’t deserving of all the attention we give them, either.

Take, for example, the coverage of the Masters this past weekend. Did anyone else notice just how much of the talk was about Tiger Woods? You remember Tiger, he’s the guy who spit on the “gentleman’s game” part of golf for almost his entire career while winning the award for “most times cheated with a porn star.” You may also recall that he never really apologized for all of this, and recently released a commercial essentially mocking everyone who loves him again, by boldly stating that “Winning takes care of everything.”

The sad part? He’s basically right.

And it’s our fault, we sports fans, for allowing this to all happen. We’re the ones who still buy jerseys bearing the names of sexual offenders, spousal abusers and animal killers. We’re the ones who serenade these villains with MVP chants and raucous applause over their most minor of accomplishments. We’re the ones who idolize cheaters and criminals, because they do the one thing that matters most. They win.

It’s enough to make you sick if you really think about it.

After all, these faux-heroes are the ones that kids look up to and aspire to be. Any child watching the roars of the crowd as Tiger sinks a birdie will aim to become him, faults and all. They will think that it really doesn’t matter what you do in life, that so long as you win nothing else matters at all.

But there is something we can do about it, fellow sports enthusiasts. We can stop cheering, stop celebrating when these lousy people win despite their evildoings. We can stop showering them with attention when they don’t really deserve it. And maybe, just maybe, if enough people follow suit, these athletes will realize they can’t get away with anything just because they win.

You know what I hope for? I hope to someday be watching a sporting event with my kid, and for one of these scoundrels of sport to win. I want there to be silence at his victory, and I want my kid to ask me why. I want to give the explanation that has become the new saying in sports:

Winning isn’t everything.