The competitive culture of cheating
I was shocked and greatly saddened when I learned about the recent Lance Armstrong scandal. The great athlete, American hero and cancer survivor idolized by thousands is a cheater. But my sorrow turned just as fast into anger at what our society is becoming: an over-obsessed, competive and victory-crazed people.
Now, I am not anti-competition. I played five sports all four years of high school and loved every moment. I know how good it feels to put your heart and soul into something and finish victorious. I understand the necessity of a capitalist economy to drive improvement and progress. But, to what extent?
A recent Time Magazine article said Armstrong had no choice but to dope. In a race in 1995, he and his team got beat badly, and he realized that everyone in the bike racing industry was doping. He knew the only way to compete on the same level as the cheaters would be to cheat. It became an ongoing thing because he had won for so long and had so much pressure, he felt he could not lose. The cheating continued all in the name of glory, fame and victory.
One of the things that sickens me is that all of the fans, sponsors and sports centers that cheered him on, rewarded him and worshipped him for winning suddenly turned their backs on him after the scandal was brought to light. It seems like complete hypocrisy! These people drove him to win and expected nothing less than winning, but then shunned him when they learned what he had done to meet their expectations to ensure victory.
In America we pride ourselves on having the best athletes and sporting events. We all proudly gloat when we collect the most gold medals at the Olympics. Fans go crazy at Super Bowl parties and NBA games. As a culture, we are obsessed with winning. Just as we worship the sports gods our country has made out of the pro athletes, we should realize what we are doing to these people. We as fans are telling them we won’t accept them if they lose. So in a sense, we are pushing them to do whatever it takes—even cheat—to win.
Another example. I received an interesting phone call from one of my aunts last week. She explained a disturbing trend she has noticed in her community of Cedar City. The parents, fans and athletes at the high-school sporting events are brutal to their competitors. There are two rival high schools in Cedar City, and she said it was absolutely insane how violent and malicious the parents were in the stands. That behavior transferred to the students, fans and athletes themselves. She said the behavior left her feeling absolutely awful, uncomfortable and made her want to discontinue her support at the games.
See the message that is being sent? These young teenagers are being trained that their self worth stems from how many victories they have and how many opponents they can crush on the way.
Do we really want to embed a “Hunger Games” type of mentality into our society? We all know how that book ended.