Forget the Money...Show Me the Character!

If you have boys (or a man) in your house, chances are that you are exposed to at least SOME sports news each week. This week the airwaves have been inundated with news of Lance Armstrong and his confession of having used performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times. I am not a big cycling fan, and quite honestly I admired Lance Armstrong, not for his cycling abilities, but for what he has done to bring awareness and raise money to fund cancer research. Notice that I said "admirED", as in past tense. I am struggling now with how I feel about him. I am totally disappointed in him for cheating, and even more so for having lied about it for so long, but I still think LiveStrong is an amazing organization and he does deserve credit for that endeavor. His philanthropic efforts, however, do not excuse his actions in the sports world. I am so saddened to hear of yet another athlete who succumbed to the call of money and fame over true sportmanship and athleticism. Today on an afternoon television show, the question was asked "what do we do to rein in the morals of athletes, and truly control cheating in sports?" Well, for what it is worth, let me tell you what I think. Grab a coffee...This might take a few minutes.

Our problem is not the athletes. Our problem is our society and its priorities. One of the quickest ways to get me worked up is to start talking about the money that is paid to professional athletes. I know, I know...they must make a boat load of money in just a few years, because they risk being injured and never being able to play their sport again...leaving them virtually unemployed for the rest of their lives. Really? Most athletes who go on to professional sports played at least for a while in college...where many received scholarships to pay for their education. Here's a token idea...why don't they use that education to get a real job if the sports thing doesn't last? I'm sorry...I do not think that a person being able to run faster or throw a ball further makes them worth millions of dollars. The thought that always comes to me when this topic arises is that it disgusts me that a ball player (or cyclist, or runner) makes such a ridiculous amount of money, when the teachers that we entrust to educate our future leaders have to take on extra work to make ends meet, and often buy supplies for someone else's children out of their own pockets. Ugh! Okay...see? Now I'm on a tear here.

So what can we do to prevent cheating and other bad behavior in athletes? STOP PAYING THEM UNGODLY AMOUNTS OF MONEY. Stop placing them on pedestals for an ability and not for their character. Our society has got to stop valuing things like athletic ability and good looks (yes, Hollywood, I'm talking about you) over things like integrity, fairness, honesty, and service. As parents, it is okay to encourage our kids to excel in sports, but we cannot put MORE importance on this than teaching them good character. And how do we do this? We model it in our own lives! We have to show them that we work hard, and we work to be honest, compassionate, kind and sincere. We have to show them that heroes do not set world records (or make records) but that they teach, they protect, they serve, and they do so because it is RIGHT, not because of what they will be paid for doing it.

Are we going to make mistakes? Of course! We are not perfect, we are human, and we have a sin nature. We are going to screw up sometimes. So what do we do when we realize we messed up? We show our children quality character by recognizing our mistakes, apologizing, and trying to not make them again. They need to see that we don't let our imperfections and mistake define us...and so theirs do not have to define them either.

I am so disappointed in Lance Armstrong for cheating, but what a teaching moment this could be for our families. At dinner, talk about what he did. Talk about why it was wrong and why you are disappointed in him. Talk about how this is a perfect example of WHY we should not make athletes our heroes, and talk about some true heroes... like Corrie Ten Boom, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, or Joan of Arc. And let's not forget about heroes among firefighters, missionaries, the American soldier and even their teachers.

Now let me go on to say, that not ALL athletes have poor character. I was just talking this week about how impressed I was to hear that Shaquille O'Neal recently returned to school to complete his degree...and not his Bachelor's, but a Doctorate in Education. Now THAT is admirable to me! Someone who has the money and the fame from a sports career, but still saw the value in an education...which he will use to help others.

Our world is so imperfect. This week's news isn't really a surprise. Which is even sadder than the news itself. Take this opportunity to cultivate character in the world around you. I know I will....starting with MY world - my boys and myself.

"For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever." 1 John 2:16-17

About the Author: Trisha Anderson Rogers resides in North Carolina with her husband and three sons. You can visit her blog at or find Life in the Blender on FaceBook.