Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dr. Jennifer Beller working to create WSU center for assisting rural coaches

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Coaches in rural America face the same demands as big city coaches. They’re supposed to build winning programs, develop athletes of great physical ability and moral character, and minimize the possibility of injury and other potential harm. However, rural coaches seldom have access to the same resources as their counterparts in urban areas.

That’s why Dr. Jennifer Beller of now is working with professionals at Washington State University and the Center for ETHICS* at the University of Idaho to develop a multi-disciplinary program of outreach consultation, leadership training and coaching education. “We have a mission to develop a center for rural coaching education,” Beller said.

As a parent of a child in a rural school, Beller believes such a program can be of immediate benefit to athletes, families and coaches in small-town American. “When our kids get into junior high and high school, we know our sons want to play football, but we worry about the techniques they use,” Beller said. “As a rural parent, I have very real concerns about how my own son would be coached.”

One of the major components will be an online program, filled with techniques based in sound research, to assist coaches of youth and high school programs. Beller expects the center will offer continuing education credits for teachers and coaches at a reasonable cost, hopefully $50 to $74 per credit.

“The nature of sport is incredibly wonderful. There are amazing things it does to us as people and human beings,” she said. “But when something does go wrong, it can be a bad situation both physically and psychologically.”

One problem coaches sometimes face is gearing their training program to the age and development of their athletes. “You have to look at young people differently,” Beller said. Using baseball as an example, she noted that young players may be asked to learn many different pitches as well as increase their pitching speed -- even though their muscles and bone growth plates are not fully developed. “So some kids end up with lifelong injuries and can’t play at higher levels because they are constantly injured.”

Improving coaches’ knowledge of technique and physiological capacities can provide them fresh options to help prevent injury.

Similarly, the center hopes to help rural coaches address the growing concerns about concussions in football. “We know that concussions are a major issue, in part because we don’t necessarily teach young players good techniques for protecting the head, neck and upper body,” Beller said.

The people working with Beller to develop the center include athletic trainers Carol Zweifel and Kimberly Robertello, playground design and safety expert Larry Bruya, physical therapists at Moscow Mountain Sport and Physical Therapy, and the Center for ETHICS*.

They hope to create interactive online modules to help coaches recognize and treat athletic injuries, as well as learn about nutrition, motivation, strength training, diet supplements, fitness and conditioning, and building community involvement in athletic programs. Beller has identified schools in rural Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon as a target for the program, but an Internet based program has the potential to reach an even wider audience.

Purdue’s National Rural Education Center and WSU’s Rural Education Center already provide general services to rural schools, but neither focuses on providing coaching education. “There’s nothing I can find out there that focuses on coaching education in particular with rural schools,” Beller said.

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has to say about the idea.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How about family friendly football games?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The University of Idaho recently changed the name of the week before the Boise State football game. It used to be called “Beat BSU Week.” Henceforth, it will be known as “Vandal Pride Week.”

Ooops. Two weeks later, the Student Alumni Relations Board changed it back to "Beat BSU Week." That sentiment is a tradition that is highly valued at UI.

In actuality, we expected little of substance to change under either name — though we will offer one suggestion to try to make a difference. We suggest creating a family friendly area in the Kibbie Dome parking lot.

That's been one of the areas of conflict between Idaho fans and visitors. Some Idaho supporters still continue to malign Boise State in every way possible. At a recent volleyball match, the rhyme of, “Who do hate? Boise State” greeted visitors, and dispatched them when it ended. And these were sober fans.

When the President of BSU called Idaho fans “nasty” and “inebriated,” it was no idle remark. It reflected his personal experience. He has walked the gauntlet of drunken Idaho tailgaters in the Kibbie Dome parking lot. He has heard the insults thrown like stones at anyone wearing blue and orange. The image he retained of Idaho fans was “nasty” and “inebriated.”

Frankly, those of us who breathe Vandal black and gold may feel little empathy for the BSU President. He’s a big guy — whose team is ranked in the top 5. He can take it. But it may serve Idaho well to consider whether the impression that he gained of the University of Idaho is also shared by other visitors. You should ask, would you want your children to have that impression of Vandals fans?

Our proposal was raised by Seth Haselhuhn, a graduate student at the Center for ETHICS*. He thought of sectioning off a family area in the Kibbie Dome parking lot that would be off-limits to drinking and tailgating. It would have a route to the Kibbie Dome entrance that did not border the tailgating area.

If fans want to drink and celebrate prior to Vandals games, so be it. Revelry is part of the sport. But there’s no reason to mix revelry and rivalry when hatred seems to spring from it.

If Boise Fans choose to tailgate alongside Vandal fans, that should be their right. But if they choose to avoid the abuse and park in the family area, they should have that option, too.

Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has this to say about the discussion of a name changes for "Beat BSU Week" and the Vandal tailgating culture:

Offended by the word? Maybe we should talk.

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

In a class last week, I heard some of the student-athletes calling each other “nigga.” I was deeply offended —not because they directed their comments at me; they hadn’t. I’m an old white man. The word has never been used as a club to beat me. No, I was offended because I put myself on the line many times to stop people from using such language.

As a journalist in a previous life, I remember standing beneath a bridge near Boise, working on a story about a bunch of beer-drinking skinheads. One of the skinheads, who later went to prison for terrorist acts, used the n-word to describe African Americans. Within his Identity Christian belief system, people of other races were inhuman. He used the term as though he were discussing an animal. I told him I was offended and I didn’t want him to use that language around me. In retrospect, that was probably a risky maneuver for someone surrounded by drunken skinheads. But oddly enough, the young man apologized and quit using the word.

When I lived in the South, I would almost routinely hear people use derogatory terms about African Americans. I remember telling a neighbor that language was unacceptable. I never heard him say it again. I doubt he changed his language patterns in other circumstances. But language is powerful. When one uses the language of hate, and others acquiesce to that language, it signals a quiet agreement. It says, “We are all racists here.” Stopping the agreement requires action. I’ve taken that action. It was the only thing to do.

After the incident in class, I asked an African American friend what he thought of the use of the word “nigga” by young blacks. My friend is an activist. He fights to try to improve the lives of people in the impoverished Southern city where he lives. He is extremely troubled by those who would adopt the language of oppression and turn it upon themselves. Of course, my friend believes in responsibility — that everyone, regardless of race, has a duty to act to improve their own future. Seeking improvement requires working together. My friend believes people hold themselves down by adopting oppressive language, the language of division, and using it on themselves.

There is a strong argument that offensive language can be liberated from its previous meaning. Gay culture has done that, I think successfully, with “queer.” African American legal scholar Randall Kennedy writes in the book “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word” that use of the word “nigga” by blacks exhibits a “bracing independence.” He believes they are changing the meaning of the word. Some in sport even believe the word conveys concepts of toughness and determination.

But most still hear the word, particularly when used by a white man, as a powerful insult. As Gary Younge wrote in an article in The Guardian, when blacks use the word “nigga” for each other they give tacit approval for use of the word by others. That’s why, in mixed company, Younge told an acquaintance never to call him that again. “If it was left unchallenged, I would have to listen to racist people using racist language and justifying it with the pretext that a black man had said it first.”

As coaches or educators, we could draw a line and say, “Don’t use that word.” And if we never hear the word, we have no need to confront it. But when the word comes up, as it does with regularity in music and conversation, it may offer a teaching opportunity. We are supposed to teach, and not just win games or deliver high scores on standardized tests.

This is a word with the potential to harm. It’s a linguistic elbow that may bend to serve some but has often been thrown to harm others. We can only know the difference by learning how others react to the term. I don’t condemn those young men who used on it on each other. But they probably didn’t understand that it hurt me.

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has to say:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Will tough NCAA stance on rule breaking make educational difference? Or just better relations with the pros?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The NCAA is getting tough on rule-breakers. This year, the NCAA hit Southern Cal with a two-year bowl and loss of 20 scholarships after football star Reggie Bush and basketball standout O.J. Mayo were caught accepting gifts from outside promoters. It’s the toughest penalty in years.

Incoming NCAA president Mark Emmert told the Associated Press that he recognizes how much temptation athletes face: "Around elite athletes, there are always people who see an opportunity to make money in the future, so the opportunities for those things are sort of omnipresent and what the university president and athletic directors have to do is be as rigorous as they can with what the university stands for, their values and be very attentive to it.”

Harsh penalties are designed to encourage other athletic departments to work harder to prevent problems from occurring. "The key is trying to get the penalties to line up with the bad behavior and getting others to change so that they play within the rules," Emmert said. The NCAA has nearly doubled the number of investigators since 2003. Emmert says he may cut the NCAA’s staff of almost 500, but not it’s 23-person enforcement unit.

One of Emmert’s ideas is to create a points system for rule breakers, so that coaches and others involved in illicit activity cannot simply move on to another place, leaving the university behind with the penalties.

Some of his proposals include working with the NBA to create a baseball-style draft rule. Currently, NBA teams cannot draft high school players but can draft college players after their first year, which has encouraged many star players to take a “one and done” college career. A baseball-style draft rule would allow high school players to be drafted, but require those that are not drafted to commit to college for a set period of time before they can be drafted.

"I much prefer the baseball model, for example, that allows a young person if they want to go play professional baseball, they can do it right out of high school, but once they start college they've got to play for three years or until they're 21," Emmert, who is leaving the University of Washington to take the helm of the NCAA, said in a radio interview with KJR. "I like that a good deal.

"But what you have to also recognize is that rule isn't an NCAA rule…. That's a rule of the NBA. And it's not the NBA itself, but the NBA Players Association. So to change that rule will require me and others working with the NBA, working with the players association."

Emmert has also had discussions with the NFL and its union about illicit activity by sports agents. Emmert believes working closely with pro sports leagues and players unions will help clean up the environment of sport. “Emmert said it’s all part of a bigger plan to help police everything from unsavory agents to schools that ignore the rules,” the AP reported.

One question arises from Emmert's plan to get tough on schools and coaches, however. The purpose of college sport is supposed to be education. Is this new approach by the NCAA going to create a better environment for education of athletes? Or is it designed to improve the NCAA's position as a farm system for professional sports?

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says about Emmert’s plan to get tough.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How early should kids turn pro?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Lera Solovieva was 11 years old when Norman Canter of Renaissance Tennis Management signed her to a professional contract. As The New York Times reports, Renaissance Tennis spent $650,000 bringing the young Russian girl to Miami to live and train. Four years later, she’s back in Russia, her career derailed by injuries.

But Cantor and other agents continue to cruise the junior tennis circuit looking for the next big thing. Rafael Nadal signed a professional contract when he was only 13.

However, few of the best junior athletes will become a top men’s or women’s player. About one-percent become a top 10 player. So the agents are playing a numbers game, signing 100 young athletes in hopes that one or two will become marketable stars.

Many of the young athletes will make very little money for themselves. According to the Times, these young professionals get free equipment and clothing from sponsors. They may get a $1,000 bonus for winning a tournament or $25,000 for rising into the rankings of the top 100. Most of the money, probably more than $100,000 per year, is spent on high-caliber coaching, travel and expenses.

In addition, little is known about the risks that young athletes face when they begin intensive training in one sport early in life. Some sports medicine experts say young athletes should be discouraged from "playing through the pain," because overuse injuries in growing children may create permanent damage. One study of high school students showed that those who played sports all year long had a 42% increased chance of overuse injury compared to those who took at least one season off.

Patrick McEnroe, general manager for the United States Tennis Association’s player development program, says this actually weakens American tennis. “The bottom line is, we lost a generation of players the last 10 years that should have gone to college but didn’t,” he told The New York Times.

Some top young tennis players, such as 17-year-old Jack Sock, have refused to accept bonuses or prize money because they want to maintain college eligibility. However, Sock’s choice has required sacrifices from his family.

Is this a good model for treatment of young athletes? If it is, we may expect it would work in other sports. Imagine some basketball players turning pro at age 11 or 12. In some nations, it may already work that way. Kentucky basketball recruit Enes Kantor, 18, has been under professional contract in Turkey for three years already, according to published reports.

Jeremy Tyler turned professional prior to his senior year in high school in San Diego, signing with a basketball team in Israel. However, he failed to last the season and returned home, his NBA prospects fading. Now he's off to Japan, trying to resurrect a career that for most athletes would just be getting started.

If that rule were applied in basketball, 100 players would turn professional in high school and lose their chance at a college scholarship. But only a handful of them — perhaps only one or two — would actually become a professional star. If we value education of young people more than we value professional sport, that seems a high price to pay.

Thinking of Reggie Bush: Make coaches pay when athletes violate NCAA rules

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for Ethics

Published reports said in early September that Reggie Bush could be stripped of his Heisman Trophy because he accepted gifts and cash while he was playing football for the University of Southern California. A week later, the New Orleans running back announced he would relenquish his trophy. The 2005 Heisman, which Bush called "one of the greatest honors of my life," was being erased along with all his other college honors.

Georgia wide receiver A. J. Green has been suspended for four games for selling a game jersey for $1,000, which was a violation of NCAA rules that prohibit players from selling memorabilia. Georgia, without Green, lost to rival South Carolina, putting his team in a must win situation if it hopes to compete in the SEC.

College athletes are expected to resist all financial rewards for playing. Their compensation is tuition, books, room and board. Yet they see the institutions and the coaches of college sport make huge amounts of money. In Georgia, for instance, Head Coach Mark Richt makes $3 million per year. At USC during the Bush years, Head Coach Pete Carroll made more than $4 million.

The problems are clear from a rules-based perspective. If Bush and Green failed to abide by NCAA rules, they are subject to sanctions. They are expected to know the NCAA rules — all 434 pages. Before they play NCAA athletics, they’re must sign documents to that effect.
However, a rules-based perspective may be blind to the real world of college athletes. A rules-based system assumes athletes know the rules, even if they probably don’t. One athlete at the University of Idaho described his introduction to NCAA rules where school officials sat him down with a pile of documents: “They said if you don’t sign, you can’t play. So you sign.” When we recently asked a group of athletes in class if they actually read the documents before signing them, none of them had.

In an educational institution, one might expect to see some educational program surrounding the rules, one where students learn about the reasoning and principles behind the rules. At the very least, we might expect that training in the rules is provided to athletes before they’re asked to sign them. Wouldn’t it be better to spend time teaching athletes about the principles and responsibilities they’re expected to uphold rather than wait until someone catches the next Reggie Bush taking money from an agent or booster. In the absence of such an educational program, it would appear that the rules — and the signing ritual demanded of athletes — are mostly for a tool to penalize athletes after they err.

Bush and Green may not understand, but the people who paid the real penalty for the violations are other students. They’re the ones who lose their opportunities to win a scholarship or play in a bowl game. When Green takes $1,000 for a shirt, his teammates suffer because they must play without him in several big games. If Bush and Green had learned to think about how others will be affected by their decisions, they may have come to a different conclusion. However, if all they think about are the “rules,” they may believe, as they do in games, that all is well if the referee fails to spot the violation.

How about creating models of ethical behavior within sports programs and making coaches responsible for the behavior of their athletes? No one is saying that athletes shouldn't be held personally responsible for their behavior, but they should not be held solely responsible. Any program that asks students to lie before they can play the game — in other words, asks them to sign a document saying they read and understand the rules, when they don’t — provides a poor ethical model. When coaches accept millions for work done by athletes who get almost nothing, they’re telling athletes that sport is not fair or just. The huge disparity in benefits between the coach and the athlete may encourage some to seek professional benefits before they’re truly professionals.

Of course, if the coach was required to give back some of those millions if members of his team are found to be violating NCAA rules, perhaps the coach would may more attention. Here’s a thought for institutions: If you give bonuses to coaches when they’re athletes win games, why not ask coaches to personally take responsibility when their athletes violate NCAA rules? Would that encourage them to educate their athletes about making good ethical decisions?

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says on the issue:

Friday, September 3, 2010

How old did you say you were?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

When a 21-year-old man posed as a 14-year-old boy and signed up for a youth football league in Florida, a few people were suspicious. But “Chad Jordan” had turned in all the appropriate paperwork, including a birth certificate. Now, however, the document appears to have been a fake.

Because the coach had some vague suspicions, he launched an investigation to find out if Jordan was who he said he was — a young man whose parents had died and who was now being raised by an older brother. Only after contacting people from Jordan’s neighborhood did the coach discover that Jordan was actually Julius Threatts, age 21, a young man on probation for burglary charges.

A similar case came to light earlier this year, when a 21-year-old in Texas posed as a 15-year-old Haitian orphan and enrolled in high school. In that case, he was adopted by the basketball coach, named Newcomer of the Year in district basketball competition and helped lead the high school to the state playoffs. Later, the athlete was charged with sexual assault when for having sex with a minor — a 15-year-old girl who thought the boy was also 15.

Then there was the 22-year-old in Arizona last year who posed as a high school student in hopes of winning a basketball scholarship. He was later charged with three counts of forgery and 11 counts of sexual conduct with a minor.

There are ethical reasons why 21-year-olds should not compete with 14-year-olds. It’s not fair when someone with seven more years of growth and experience takes the field against younger players. The added physical development of bone, muscle, and coordination may also increase the physical dangers for younger opponents, even if the athletes are roughly the same size. Joining a league of younger players also requires deceiving coaches, teammates and competitors.
What great temptation drives some older athletes to try to recreate themselves as someone half their age? The idea of older people who still look young returning to high school has been glamorized in such movies as “Never Been Kissed” and “Hiding Out.” In general, lying about one’s age is not uncommon.

One could argue that in a sport where outcomes are more important than process, and where deception is commonly accepted as part of the process, athletes may get the idea that it’s wrong only if they get caught. Coaches may not be highly motivated to track down the truth about their best players, particularly when false documentation exists. Many teammates may be happy to have a stronger, more experienced player on their side.

Then whose duty is it to enforce these off the field rules? What responsibility do teammates, coaches and the athlete themselves have to ensure that truth is told?

Here's what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says:

Friday, August 27, 2010

When athletes are injured

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

A coach in McMinnville, OR, is struggling with the burden of whether something he did caused harm to his athletes. It’s a burden many coaches face in their careers.

During an intense series of football practices, 24 players became ill and sought treatment at a hospital. Media reports say the 21 of the players were treated for high levels of creatine kinase (CK) in their blood, and three had surgery for compartment syndrome in their upper arms.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the injuries, because outbreaks such as this one are rare. A state health official said many of the athletes were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, which is characterized by elevated CK and can lead to compartment syndrome. Rhabdomylosis is often associated with muscle injury or strain, and most commonly manifests in crushing injuries.

The media and some doctors have already begun speculating that the players were using the over-the-counter supplement creatine, which both players and coach deny. But the coach — the adult who ran practice — has been on the hot seat. A high school coach is responsible for the well-being of the players. Coaches in all sports are charged maintaining a safe environment for athletes.

In an interview, the coach described practice immediately preceding the injuries as including repeated sets of wind sprints, dips, push-ups and sit-ups. The temperature outside was over 90 degrees, and part of the practice took place in the wrestling room, where some reports put the temperature at 115 degrees.

The McMinnville instance may be rare, but similar outbreaks have occurred. One group of female lacrosse players developed rhabdomyolysis following the first weight training session of the year, where each athlete performed three sets of biceps curls with a 15-pound load.

In Taipei, 119 high school students developed rhabdomyolyis after being required, on a very cold day, to perform 120 push-ups within five minutes. Dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities may predispose athletes to rhabdomylosis. Sudden and drastic changes in muscle activity may also contribute to the condition.

The condition even gets attention in professional football and some say it’s more common that we know in the NFL.

No coach can predict all the circumstances in which a player may be harmed. And we don’t want to speculate in this case. However, a high school coach can be expected to have a moral value system that places great emphasis on the health and safety of the players. The philosopher William Frankena argues that one of our primary values should be beneficence. Beneficence means four things, Frankena says: Inflict no harm, prevent harm, remove evil and promote good.

Regardless of what caused the outbreak in McMinnville — and in this case we begin with the assumption that the coach did nothing to inflict harm to the athletes — a coach who subscribed to the principle of beneficence would still have a duty to prevent harm now and in the future. What should a coach do to prevent harm when next summer’s football practice opens or when other teams begin intense practices in preparation for the season? Do coaches on other teams, having seen what happened in McMinnville, now have a duty to do something more to prevent harm on their own teams?

If a coach accepts the responsibility for preventing harm to the players, that coach must also take responsibility to be fully educated about the risks posed by the coaching practices he or she employs. Good coaching practices require that we demand a full explanation of what happened in McMinnville, educate ourselves, and use our knowledge to prevent other athletes from suffering similar consequences.

Here's what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says on that subject.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How should we respond to umpire errors?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Detroit Tiger pitcher Amando Galarraga threw a perfect game on June 2, but umpire Jim Joyce spoiled it. Joyce made a bad call on the final out, calling someone safe at first when replays showed he was actually out. Joyce admitted his error. But it ruined Galarraga’s chance to get his name in record books.

Referees were blamed for many bad calls in the World Cup, including one that cost the United States a victory against Slovenia. Now international soccer authorities are considering instant replay in some cases.

In cricket, referees at the top level have been criticized for a number “jaw-dropping” errors. The sport is developing an umpire decision review system.

However, it doesn’t take a computer to see that referees and umpires are imperfect and that sometimes they make mistakes that are game-changing, as this list of the top gaffes by referees will show. But if you look at the No. 1 mistake, you’ll see it involved an instant replay. Referees even make mistakes when it comes to rules about use of video to review their mistakes.

Perhaps someday there could be a perfect “robot umpire” (but that’s criticized as boring).Using video replay for more than a few calls would slow down the game. Even if robot refs or video replay were adopted for use at the highest levels of sport – for professional and World Cup games -- such methods seem impractical at lower levels, where most athletes engage in sport.

What, then, should a coach teach young athletes about referees and referee errors? And how should a referee respond after making an error?

It seems that response to umpiring errors may be a great measure of attitude toward the game. If errors only matter when they appear to change the outcome against us, it shows that we value winning and losing more than other considerations of the game. If, on the other hand, we look at umpire errors as though they were the wind and rain, the bounce of an oblong football, or the shape of a ballpark, we may find new importance in the underlying values of the game. Did we work as hard as we could? Did we make the right strategic choices? Did we treat everyone on the field, including our opponents and the officials, with respect? Would we shout at the wind for blowing a pass off course or kick dirt at the wall that stood a few feet too far oout for our home-run attempt?

Joyce made a mistake. It in no way cheapens Galarraga’s effort. Can you name the other four pitchers who hurled no-hitters this year? If not, the apology of Joyce and grace of Galarraga may have serve up more memorable lessons. The game goes on no matter what the umpire calls. And most of life takes place off the playing field.

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has to say about umpires and the game.

What do you think about umpires and referees? Click here to take survey

Monday, July 12, 2010

Would you break a rule to prevent your opponent from winning?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Seconds from the end of overtime in a World Cup quarterfinal, Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah headed a ball toward Uruguay’s net. Uruguay’s goalie was nowhere near it. The ball was heading high toward the top of the net. That’s when Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, standing on goal line nearly inside the net, leaped up and knocked the ball away with his fist.

The referee gave Suarez a red card and threw him out of the game. The handball was clearly illegal. But Ghana missed the penalty kick and the game ended. Uruguay won the match in the shootout. Suarez became a hero in Uruguay — and a goat in Ghana and many other parts of the world.

Some writers say it was morally wrong for Suarez to break the rules to win the game. Suarez thinks it was the right thing to do: “It was worth it to be sent off in this way. It was complicated and tough. We suffered to the end but the hand of god is mine now.”

Other athletes feel as Suarez does. Suresh Menon comments in Tehelka Magazine:

“CONSIDER GERMAN goalkeeper Manuel Neur’s reaction to the goal by England’s Lampard that was disallowed by the referee: ‘After I turned around, I just focused on the ball. I tried to continue playing quickly so that the referees wouldn’t notice the ball was in.’ Or Thierry Henry’s confession after the referee failed to notice his handball that led to a goal in the crucial qualifying game that knocked Ireland out of the reckoning: ‘It was a handball. But I am not the referee. I played it, the ref allowed it,’ and then, ‘It was necessary to exploit what was exploitable.’

“At what point did fair play and sportsmanship ooze out of sport so thoroughly to be replaced by the need to win at all costs, and the deification of the cheat who doesn’t get caught? On the other hand, why should sport — widely believed to mirror society — answer to a greater morality than other fields of human endeavour?”

Philosophers and researchers know, even child’s play is governed by rules that determine the structure of the game. German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer noted that the structure of the game is critically important to the players. As Bert Oliver wrote, “It is more a case of the players being played by the game than the other way around. The structure of the game — whatever it is — makes certain demands on the players, and if they overstep these demands or ignore them, the game stagnates.”

What happens when a player willingly breaks the rules to win a game? Does it hurt the game? Or is the action of Suarez indicative of a set of rules outside the game, rules that encourage gamesmanship, interference by fans and abuse of officials? Have we created a new game structure where such thing are expected because winning is so important?

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To whom should LeBron James be loyal?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Loyalty is such a fickle virtue. Fans in Cleveland burned the jersey of LeBron James because he decided to sign with Miami.

The question wasn’t money. James would have made more money in Cleveland. And fans expected him to be loyal to the city. However, James’ question really wasn’t loyalty. James was loyal – to winning, and perhaps to his new teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Wade, Bosh and James plotted the deal that brought them together to form a new NBA powerhouse. Reportedly, they’ve talked about playing together professionally ever since their days on the U.S. Olympic team. It’s not collusion when players themselves decide to play together. It’s about maximizing returns in money and victories.

Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert didn’t see it that way, of course. He called James a quitter and a coward. Many writers sided with Gilbert, saying James was neither loyal nor royal in his treatment of Cleveland.

Others, however, say James owes no loyalty to anyone, particularly owners. The Reason Foundation emphasizes that basketball is a team sport, and that James is merely doing what a rational entrepreneur would do: taking his talent to the most productive place.

Kevin Garnett, who labored for years on unproductive Minnesota teams, said loyalty may actually be harmful to a player: "Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can't get youth back.”

But one interesting question for all of us is what James’ actions say about loyalty as a virtue in sports and in life. One human relations writer called it the “death of loyalty.” Lance Haun said loyalty can no longer be expected from top performers in sports or business, and called on executives to quit building their teams on the superstars: “Whether you have a roster of 15 or a business of 15,000, you can’t just do it with your top 5 percent. And if all your business actions are focused on appeasing those one or two superstars, just remember that when they leave you need a Plan B (or even Plan C).”

Basketball coach John Wooden preached loyalty, but he preached it as part of a team approach to the game. "The main ingredient in stardom," Wooden told his players, "is the rest of the team."

How important is loyalty is sports today? Who should athletes be loyal to? For how long? And what kind of example is James when it comes to loyalty?

Here's what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says about loyalty.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Deception, drugs and sport

By Tom Grant
PhD student, University of Idaho Center for ETHICS*

Cyclist Floyd Landis spent four years and millions of dollars claiming he was innocent of using performance enhancing drugs as he fought to regain his title of 2006 Tour de France champion, which was stripped from him after he failed a drug test. Then in May he abruptly changed his story, saying that not only had he used steroids, a synthetic blood booster known as EPO and blood transfusions to boost performance, but also that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and Armstrong’s longtime coach Johan Bruyneel had helped him learn the proper techniques of drug use.

Landis called his drug use “misjudgments” but said he felt no guilt about using performance enhancing drugs.

“I did what I did because that’s what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 or 12 years of hard work to get there,” he told ESPN.

Armstrong and others responded by questioning Landis’ credibility. "This is a man that's been under oath several times and had a very different version," Armstrong said. "This is a man that wrote a book for profit and had a completely different version. This is somebody that took, some would say, close to a million dollars from innocent people for his defense under a different premise, and now that it's all run out, the story changes."

Landis may have documents to support some of his claims. Federal investigators may also help the truth come out. Federal investigator Jeff Novitzky, who led the BALCO Investigation that ensnared Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, among others, is now reportedly interested in the allegations against Armstrong.

But controversies over performance enhancing drugs point out that some sports seem to have created cultures of lying. Landis isn’t the first one to admit to lying about performance enhancing drugs. Bonds, Jones, Mark McGuire, and Alex Rodriguez are a few of the superstars who were caught and finally admitted their drug use. From here on, they’ll be remembered as liars.
At one point in their life, winning became more important than their credibility and honesty.

They knew that use of steroids or blood doping was cheating. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have lied about it. During their years of deceit, they became heroes to many people. Landis was defended by many as having been falsely accused of doping.

Now that Landis is telling another story, the “truth” comes out that his former story was a lie. Why tell the truth now with his athletic career virtually over? It would appear that truth has a different value on the outside of sport than it has inside sport. McGuire admitted his drug use to gain a coaching job. Jones confessed only when facing criminal charges for lying to investigators.

“Truth,” in these cases, seems to be more about serving self-interests than following principles of good character.

In fact, some sports may create cultures in which deceit is acceptable when victory is in the balance. Deception has already been part of sport, as one athlete or team tries to fake out another. But how does public acceptance of deceptive strategy inside the sport lead to private acceptance of an illegal tool such as corked bat or a spitball, or an illegal substance such as steroids.

The Landis case is an opportunity to consider how lying affects athletes. According to Landis, the pinnacle of his career was based in deceit. He felt he had to use performance enhancing drugs to succeed because everyone else was using them, and then he had to lie to prevent others from discovering that he cheated. Now he says, “I want to clear my conscience….I don’t want to be part of the problem anymore.”

Our question is where do athletes begin to be part of the problem? With the first shot of EPO or use of blood doping? Or does it start long before that, with an athlete’s first lesson that it’s okay to lie about stepping on the out of bounds line or using an illegal move — as long as the referee didn’t catch them?

Here’s Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll’s take on deception, doping and why coaches have such a difficult time teaching athletes about the line between deception as part of the game and lying to get ahead.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How do we justify pay for football coaches?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Vandal football coach Rob Akey, with an overall record at the University of Idaho of 11-26, will be considered for a raise from $258,187 to $355,797 when the Idaho State Board of Education meets this week.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Akey’s new five-year contract comes in two parts, $165,796 in base pay and $190,000 in media compensation. He’s also promised various incentives, ranging from $5,000 if he earns WAC coach of the year to $100,000 if the Vandals make a BCS bowl appearance.

The new contract is precedent setting. Akey’s 2007 contract, giving him five years and $1.2 million, was already the largest contract in Vandals’ history.

The new contract was spurred by the Vandals victory in the Humanitarian Bowl, which capped an 8-5 season. The Vandals went 1-11 and 2-10 in Akey’s first two years as head coach.

The Vandals drew a total of 75,000 fans to six home games in 2009. Average home attendance in 2009 ranked 116th of 120 Division 1 teams.

Akey’s raise comes during the same year in which all teaching faculty at the University of Idaho are being forced to take furloughs — leaves without pay — because of the crisis in the state budget. About 2,600 staff members were instructed to take the cuts in time and pay, saving the university about $1.2 million.

Given that the mission of the University of Idaho speaks to educational goals, the question arises: Why is one football coach being rewarded financially while educators are being asked to sacrifice a portion of their salaries?

Those who want to weigh the relative merits of football and educational services to the University of Idaho may look to the Points of Pride listings. The university speaks of its place among the best universities in America, of being a great value in education, and of being one of the top national, doctoral-granting universities. It talks of attracting more National Merit Scholars than all other institutions in the state combined, as well as being one of Outside Magazine’s top 30 universities for hitting the books and the outdoors. Football isn’t mentioned.

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis makes $335,000 per year. What educational justification is there for paying an 11-26 football coach at a school with one of the smallest fan bases more than the president of the university?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reflections on John Wooden's coaching style

By Tom Grant
PhD student, University of Idaho

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who died this week at age 99, was a winner. We can count that in his 10 national championships and 620 victories, including 88 straight. That’s quantifiable.

But as Jake Simpson relates in The Atlantic, what Wooden’s players remember is the unquantifiable Wooden as their teacher, mentor, and role model.

“The man they called ‘The Wizard of Westwood’ taught his players more than basketball. He imparted to each young man (in case we've forgotten, that's what college athletes are when you strip away the nationally televised games and the booster money and the arrogance that comes with being larger than life before you've accomplished anything) life lessons far more enduring than any inbounds play or hook shot,” wrote Simpson.

ESPN published a list of some of Wooden’s favorite sayings, words that reflect the coach’s dedication to developing not just good players but good people. One reads: "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." Have you ever seen that on a locker room wall?

Or how about these other Wooden sayings: "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

"Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts."

"What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player."

Few coaches will win as many games as Wooden. But many, many coaches will have equal or greater opportunity to influence just as many young people.

History marks our wins and losses. But personal records are recorded in many other ways, too. The minds of young people record the unquantifiable – the life lessons of sport delivered to them by coaches.

Think of your coaches. What did they impress upon you that still matters today? One of Wooden’s sayings that has been published again and again upon his death reads, "What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player." How will those persons you coach remember you?

Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll of the Center for ETHICS* at the University of Idaho discussed Wooden’s servant leadership style of coaching.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Would you cheat for $385,000

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS


Professional golfer Brian Davis wanted to win more than almost anything. “You’re not playing for second,” he said. “You’re playing to win.”

He was playing the 18th hole in a playoff of the Verizon Heritage golf tournament. The winner’s check was worth more than $1 million. His ball had a crummy lie in the marsh but Davis lifted it with his wedge to within 30 feet of the pin, well within reach of keeping the playoff going. But something bothered him.

“I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye,” Davis said later. “I didn’t feel anything but I thought I might have seen something.”

What Davis saw – but which no one else observed – was that his club brushed a reed on his backswing. Try to see it for yourself on this video.

But it is against the rules of golf to move a loose impediment in a hazard. Brian Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself and that cost him the tournament. The difference between winning and finishing in second place was $385,000.

“I play by the rules and no victory would be worthwhile if it had a cloud hanging over it,” Davis said.


Would you call a penalty on yourself if it made the difference between winning and losing?
As one newspaper wrote, the world has never seen a football player call himself out of bounds on a touchdown run in the Super Bowl or a baseball player say he missed third base when scoring the winning run in a World Series.

The newspaper says Davis won the respect of the world even though he lost the tournament. The Times of London called it “the supreme act of sportsmanship.”

“One of those things they never quite get around to tell you in school is that doing the right thing quit often entails hurting yourself, or at least your own perceived self interest. Brian Davis proved Sunday that in the end, it’s worth it.”

If you were in Davis’ place, would you call the penalty on yourself? Now imagine Davis playing another sport. Would he earn respect as a football player by calling a holding penalty on himself or in basketball if he called himself for a foul?

Why not? What makes golf different?

Here's what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has to say:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Football concussions: Who should pay?

By Tom Grant

PhD student, Center for ETHICS*


When old professional football players complain of dementia, the place they turn for assistance is the State of California, as The New York Times reports.

California law says that if you played one professional game in the state, you can file for workers compensation payments for injuries suffered decades before. If the state accepts the argument that repeated brain injuries suffered more than 30 years ago caused dementia in now-aging football players, the total value of those compensation claims could reach $100 million or more. Teams and insurance companies may pay, but if the teams and insurance companies are out of business, a state fund pays the settlement.

Are pros the only ones who deserve compensation? What about college athletes who may be at risk of long-term problems because of injuries suffered during their playing days? A 1999 study of college football players showed reduced neuropsychological performance associated with repeated concussions. A growing body of research indicates that repetitive head injury in sport can lead to premature dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Worries are not restricted to football players. Young soccer players who are injured heading the ball are shown to have deficits of attention, concentration and memory. That’s why some experts say no child under age 14 should head the ball.

The difference between college athletes and professional football players is that students are not paid for their play. For that reason, worker’s compensation laws will never help old college football players if they suffer dementia decades later. Yet the NCAA knows that concussions account for 6 percent of injuries in football. When the NCAA examined fall sports, which include women’s soccer, men’s soccer, field hockey, women’s volleyball, it found that more than 7 percent of injuries were concussions.

That’s compounded by risks in high school athletics, where researchers found that 40 percent of athletes with a head injury returned to action too soon.(To see the story of an Idaho football player who suffered a life-changing football head injury, watch this video.) Most schools do their best to react to head injuries in the short term. In the long term, however, the athlete may be the one carrying the risk. Is that fair?


If former college players get dementia or Parkinson’s disease 30 years from now, should universities step up to help pay their bills?

College football, much like the NFL, takes in huge sums of money from the efforts of the athletes. It does so knowing the risk of injury, not only in the immediate sense but in the long-term sense. Yet amateur athletes are expected to leave their game carrying the long-term risks of sports injury on their own backs. Some would say they assumed the risk by stepping on the field. However, they were insured only for short-term risks, and not the long-term ones.

Is that fair to athletes and good for sports? Should college athletes have as much right to long term “workers compensation” as professional athletes?

Put yourself in the position of a spouse whose husband suffers dementia in his 50’s, 30 years after a college football career in which he had one or two concussions he knew about, and perhaps others he “shrugged off” as part of the game. What would she say?

If the dementia were linked not to head injuries but to exposure to chemicals in a college science lab, would that make any difference is whether the university should be responsible?

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Red Bull Controversies

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Your opponent drinks Red Bull before the race. How should you respond?


At the Western Athletic Conference swimming championships, rumors began swirling on the first night of the meet that Boise State swimmers had been seen drinking Red Bull. Boise State was favored in the meet and doing very well. But some other teams claimed that coaches and trainers of Boise State were advising their athletes to drink Red Bull and even providing it before the races, according to one newspaper report.

The Boise State coaches denied that, saying athletes were drinking Red Bull on their own. But claims on a blog following the meet suggested that some coaches, and not only at Boise State, were either handing out the drink or looking the other way when athletes used it. One person noted that athletes were hiding the drinks under their parkas and drinking them.

SwimmingWorldMagazine.com said WAC officials issued a reminder to teams and media that caffeine, one of the substances in Red Bull, was a banned substance in the NCAA.

NCAA rules say is caffeine is a banned stimulant and if drug testing shows that athletes have more than a certain amount in their urine, they can be suspended and lose their eligibility. The rules are designed to allow ordinary consumption of coffee, tea or cola, but to control excessive use designed to give an athlete a competitive advantage.

Red Bull also contains taurine, which the NCAA says is an “impermissible” substance. Teams are forbidden from providing impermissible substances to athletes, even in vitamin water drinks.

Neither Boise State nor any other teams were penalized for the use of Red Bull. Some athletes from other teams were extremely upset about what they saw as flagrant abuse of the rules. According to swimmers, when Boise State was announced as the winner, one team chanted “Red Bull” as the Boise State fight song played. Someone else left a case of Red Bull cans with the word “cheater” on it on a Boise State van, a swimmer said.


How would you respond if you think your opponent used a banned or impermissible substance to gain a competitive advantage? Imagine someone from another team approaches you and asks you to take part in a demonstration against the competitor who used the substance. Would you join in the “Red Bull” chant during the awards ceremony or hold up a sign saying “cheater”? Why, or why not?

At the WAC swimming championships, the athletes drinking Red Bull must have known that their actions were perceived as cheating, even if they didn’t fail an NCAA drug test. If some other teams were also drinking Red Bull, perhaps that was their way of trying to even the playing field. If one team breaks the rules, the other feels justified in doing the same.

When coaches received a letter from the WAC during the meet reminding them that caffeine was banned, they had several options for action. They could have told their players not to use Red Bull, or even penalized players who used the drink. One observer claimed that meet officials also ignored the use of Red Bull.

When one team chanted “Red Bull” during Boise State’s award ceremony, some athletes on other teams saw that as rude and poor sportsmanship. However, traditional avenues of addressing the impermissible substance had not been fruitful.

The Boise State team, after being called cheaters by opponents, may wonder whether the Red Bull controversy cheapened their victory. They were favorites going into the meet but now all some people will remember is the Red Bull controversy.

Imagine yourself in the various roles of people at the meet. What’s the best response for a coach? For a meet official? For an athlete who sees their competitor drinking Red Bull? Would you complain if the Red Bull drinker won? Would you complain if they lost? If your teammate offered you Red Bull, would you drink it?

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll of the Center for ETHICS says:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why should you forgive Tiger Woods?

Question: Do you forgive Tiger Woods?

by Tom Grant
Ph.D. Student, Center for ETHICS*


Tiger Woods apologized to the world in a televised statement. He admitted having affairs and cheating on his wife. He says he is going to become a better person. He asked for forgiveness.

His mother was in the audience, and he ended the press conference by hugging her. Woods’ wife, Elin, did not attend.

Woods suggested the environment affected his judgment. He said he had fallen away from the Buddhist faith he was taught growing up. He acknowledged that he was in a recovery program. The actions he took at the press conference, accepting guilt and apologizing, indicate he’s in 12-step program that requires making amends.

In part, he made a public apology because of the Tiger Woods Foundation, which he says has touched more than 10 million children with its programs. Character development is one of the program’s aims, and Woods says in a letter on the foundation Web site that he is a model for “integrity, honesty, discipline, [and] responsibility.”


Do you need to forgive Woods? Why?

If you were his wife or his child, the need for forgiveness would be easy to understand. Forgiveness is a mechanism by which we put past harm aside and allow ourselves to move forward with social relationships. It’s like patching a bicycle tube, then riding the bike again to see if the tire holds air. There’s an implication in forgiveness that the actor will refrain from committing harmful activities again.

We may also see the need for Woods to apologize to the children served by his foundation. Publicity surrounding his affairs fractured his image as a role model. Now it is clear that he failed to display the integrity, honesty, discipline and responsibility expected of a husband and father. Still, once Woods destroyed the image that he was a man of character, it seems unlikely that an apology can restore the image.

Now children see not a man who has proved himself through a lifetime of good works, but a man who must try again and again with every step to show that he’s honest and responsible. Is that a good image for Woods?

But to most of us, Woods was just a professional golfer. Why does he need to apologize to us? Even if successful athletes have a duty to be role models, aren’t there some limits to that responsibility? We could take the cynical position that Woods’ apology was self-serving, and he had no need to apologize to us. But Woods has obviously thought about this at greater length than most of us, and he believes he harmed us, ergo the apology.

What did he do to us, and why should we forgive him?

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sexting - What to do??

By Tom Grant
PhD student at Center for ETHICS*, University of Idaho


What will you do when someone sexts you a picture?


If you’re under 30, chances are that someone will text you a sexually explicit photo. A recent survey on “sexting” by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that nearly half of the young adults had received a nude or semi-nude photo of someone via cell phone or email. A third of those young people had actually sent such a photo of themselves, generally to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Despite the private intentions of those messages, sexting has created highly public and criminal dramas around the nation. A 12-year-old and 13-year-old in Indiana are now facing criminal charges for sending nude pictures to each other. Those photos were discovered when a teacher confiscated the girl’s cell phone.

In Ohio, a family is suing their daughter’s ex-boyfriend and other classmates because they shared an explicit photo of the girl. The girl later committed suicide.

In Pennsylvania, six high school students were charged with manufacturing pornography or possession of child pornography in a sexting case. Three girls under the age of 15 sent nude pictures to the boys, and the pictures were discovered on the boys’ cell phones.

In Virginia, a school administrator was charged with failure to report child abuse and possession of child pornography because of his investigation of a sexting case. The photo was discovered on a boys’ phone, it was not immediately identifiable, and the administrator had the student forward it to him so the school could try to determine if any laws were broken. Although charges were eventually dropped, it illustrates the legal danger that sexting creates for everyone involved.

Federal law says that any photo or video showing the “lascivious exhibition of the genitals” of a minor is child pornography. Both those who send such images and those who possess them can be found guilty of crimes. Those convicted of such a crime face a prison term and a lifetime on the sex offenders list. However, no law prevents consenting adults from exchanging nude photos, so the issues may be different for people over 18.

What would you do?

Imagine a friend or acquaintance sent you a sexually explicit photograph. You can’t see the face so you can’t tell who the photo is. You can’t tell if he or she is underage.

Would you forward it to your friends? Yes or No, and why?

Would you delete it? Yes or no, and why?

Would you report it? Yes or no, and why?

Now imagine the photo was sent to you by a friend in high school and it was your sister.

What would you do? And why?

Here’s what Dr. Stoll has to say about what would happen if someone sexted her.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Athletes and Guns - Had to Defend Myself

By Tom Grant
PhD student at University of Idaho Center for ETHICS*


What is wrong with carrying a gun into a locker room?


Following a felony gun conviction and league suspension for his locker room confrontation with a teammate, Washington Wizards basketball player Gilbert Arenas publicly promised to send “a message of non-violence” to young people.

“Guns and violence are serious problems, not joking matters -- a lesson that's been brought home to me over the past few weeks. I thought about this when I pleaded guilty as charged in court and when I accepted my NBA suspension without challenge,” Arenas wrote in a column in the Washington Post.

In the Wizards locker room on Christmas Eve, Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton pulled guns on each in a dispute over a $25,000 gambling debt. Crittenden told the court he brought the gun to defend himself because Arenas had threatened to shoot him and burn his car.

He pulled his gun after Arenas laid out three guns in front of Crittenton’s locker with a note that said, “Pick one.” In early statements, Arenas characterized the incident as a joke and that he never intended to hurt anyone.

Both players pleaded guilty to violating the city’s strict law against weapons possession as well as to breaking the NBA’s rule against carrying weapons while at a basketball arena. They were suspended for the remainder of the season.

Arenas promised in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post to be a better role model. Crittenton was sentenced by the court to mentor young people.

Some say the Arenas case is symptomatic of a broader concern, and that many athletes in the NFL and NBA carry guns. Other gun incidents include Chris Mills brandishing a gun during an argument with a teammate on the Trailblazers’ team bus in 2002 and Sebastian Telfair recently caught packing a loaded handgun on his luggage on the Trailblazers’ plane. Many say that “everyone does it.” Others say they need it for protection because as celebrities and athletes they become targets for criminals.

What do you think?

Were Arenas and Crittenton justified in bringing guns into the locker room because “everyone does it”?

Some athletes legitimately fear that they are targets for crime. They may come from backgrounds where guns were part of everyday life. They see their peers in the league carrying weapons. They may fear they’ll be in danger, as Crittenton did, if they don’t carry guns.

However, the NBA promotes itself as family friendly entertainment. Arenas says guns and violence are not joking matters, and that he won’t carry guns because has a duty to be a role model for young fans. Does that affect your decision about whether professional basketball players should bring weapons into the locker room?

Here’s what Dr. Stoll has to say about the Arenas case:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tiger and the Media

From: Tom Grant, doctoral student at the Center for ETHICS*

Does coverage of Tiger Woods’ sexual escapades serve as a personal constraint on people who are considering sex outside marriage? Or is it making marital transgressions seem morally acceptable because so many people commit them?

New York Times columnist Robert Wright says media coverage of Tiger Woods’ marital infidelity, as well as other prominent cases, may be changing our idea of morality — though he’s not sure how it’s changing.
In the article , Wright points to Woods and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford as what he calls “victims of the new transparency.” He says more and more of us are creating records of our behavior through text messages and e-mails, which make it more likely the world will learn about our hidden sexual relationships.
As Vanity Fair summarizes Woods has been a tabloid sensation since a car accident outside his Florida mansion. Gov. Sanford’s affair was discovered by a newspaper when he flew to South American to meet his mistress. Other sports figures and politicians involved in such scandals include Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton, and John Edwards. Even though public figures are the ones whose stories will actually make the front pages and nightly newscasts, Wright thinks the coverage could have widespread impact on the general public.
“The resulting parade of foible is bound to affect our values,” he writes. “On the one hand, there could be a drift toward Victorian uptightness. If people are scared that their transgressions will come back to haunt them, then presumably there will be fewer transgressions.”
On the other hand, he says, wide media coverage of every affair of the rich and famous could make such transgressions seem more acceptable to all of us. “In a 1993 essay called ‘Defining Deviancy Down,’ Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan worried that the more common social pathologies became, the more common they would become,” Wright wrote.
Some evidence exists that media coverage of some negative events increases the likelihood of copycat actions, particularly with coverage of suicide and bomb threats. Other research suggests that drawing people’s attention to deviant acts, such as when a park put up signs condemning some visitors for stealing precious artifacts, can actually increase social approval of the action and increase the problem.

What do you think?
Do incidents of sexual escapades teach us that it’s OK to have affairs? Or, do all the sexual escapades warn us about our own behavior?
The answer is not easy. To ferret out a solution to any moral issue, we must first consider reversibility. Ask students to place themselves in the shoes of the people involved. Who is the victim? Tiger Woods? His wife, Elin? Tiger’s children?
Ask : “How you would feel if you were Elin? Or if Elin were your sister or Elin were your mother? How would you would feel if you were Elin’s son or daughter?” We all know someone who has faced the issues of infidelity, and we have seen the consequences. Then ask if the way Elin and her children have been treated the way all people should treat other people.
Now back to the original question, from a personal perspective: Do the students feel desensitized by such sexual transgressions? Are they more fearful of getting caught? Or do they see other values emerging, such as the importance of the promises Elin and Tiger made to each other?
Here’s a look at what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has to say about the issue:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Let's Have a Parade

Let's Have a Parade

The University of Idaho recently won the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl, defeating Bowling Green 43-42 and ending the season with an 8-5 record.
In honor of that, the Idaho football team will lead a parade down Main Street in Moscow on the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 23.
My question: Why do the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Butch Otter, and the University of Idaho President Duane Nellis see extraordinary value in drawing even greater public attention to the football team's efforts of 2009? Parades are events staged to draw public eyes to those who made great achievements. Historically, we think of ticker-tape parades for astronauts and presidents. We expect to see many parents and young people watching, and that the subjects of the parade will be held up as role models.
The record of 8-5 was the Vandals only winning season of the decade, and represents a winning record of about 62 percent. Would similar performance by a business win the Chamber’s praise? Would a politician deserve a parade if he or she won 62 percent of his or her races? Would you praise a student who scored 62 percent in class? There are differences, but what are they, and what do they say about our societal values?
If the parade is a celebration of a rare achievement, why was Olympic gold medalist Dan O'Brien honored in a much different manner. O’Brien’s coach Michael Keller said, “No parade though they did have a get together in the park up on 6th and Hayes. Yes, if a football team goes 50 percent in loss/win they think that the group is god-led and that the coach is fantastic.”
James Wharton observed that honors vary with the individual: “No, there was not a parade for Dan, but they did name the Track and Field Complex after him. And, as I reminded Mike Keller after his 29 years as track coach and service to the U of I, they named the 'Old Block House Restroom' at the complex which were converted into the new U of I Track and Field Office — after a janitor!”
Is the parade a reflection of the value of one sport over another? Is it a reflection of the attention the team drew by winning an exciting game in a nationally televised bowl? Or is it a reflection of the economic value of football to the city, as Moscow Chamber of Commerce President Steve Hacker suggested? "The University of Idaho's success on the football field has meant more than just numbers in the win column," he said in a press release. "There is a financial impact in merchandise sales, full hotels and restaurants on game days.”
Our point is not that we're against honoring the football team with a parade; rather, we're asking that we clarify the values we celebrate with special honors such as these. As you stand with your children watching the athletes go by, what will you tell your kids when they ask the hidden question: What can I do to be more like these athletes and deserve a parade of my own?
Will you tell your kids to go 8-5? Will you tell them to win a close game on national television? Will you tell them to play football instead of track and field? Or can you find a more valuable lesson here?

Tom Grant, Doctoral Student
Center for ETHICS*