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*

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