The old sage told us: “Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat.” Of course, the old sage was a sap. People cheat, and they often win as a result. Look at pretty much any Democrat since President Jefferson got Sally Hemings in “the family way.” Look at any election involving ACORN or a Kennedy. Look at Hillary Clinton’s bank account. Hell, look at BILL Clinton’s bank account.
It hardly gets better outside the Beltway. Consider the New England Patriots, Tiger Woods and a stream of baseball players dating back to well before Kenesaw Mountain Landis dropped the hammer on Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 White Sox. Forget baseball. Lying, cheating and stealing are the real national pastimes.
All things being equal, the punishment handed down by Little League International to the Jackie Robinson West team caught using ineligible players might seem a bit draconian. After all, the kids didn’t game the district lines in order to bring in “ringers.” The kids didn’t ride those ringers to a monster 2014. The kids didn’t cheat; their adult coaches did. Why punish the kids when it’s the coaches who threw the proverbial spitball, right?
Wrong. And let’s not even get caught in a rundown over the fact that the Jackie Robinson West players were well aware that they didn’t ride the school bus with some of their teammates — and in some cases had never met them before. The Jackie Robinson West players are 11- to 13-year-olds, not infants. Treating them as if they’re stupid is disrespectful and, given their ethnicity, racist.
And criticism of Little League Baseball misses the strike zone by a mile. The residency requirements exist for a reason, just as all the rules of the game do. You doctor the ball; you get tossed. You cork your bat; you get tossed. You take the field with ineligible players; you get tossed. Excusing players from one rule suggests they can skate on the others. Excusing them because they’re black is gross bigotry. The Jackie Robinson West scandal, therefore, bears no parallel to the Penn State scandal of 2011, in which an entire program’s worth of innocent young men — many of whom were black — were punished for crimes committed when they were children by someone they didn’t really know.
Of course, I do feel badly for the kids. After all, they’re 11-, 12- and 13-year-old Little League Baseball players who have now been publicly tarred and feathered for blatantly violating the rules of the game — both letter and spirit. Their 2014 national championship title and all their victories have been vacated. Cheating didn’t just cost them their victories; it cost them their entire 2014 baseball existence. According to Little League Baseball, it’s as if they never played any of those games. Sure, they’ll still get to look back at the reams of images and video clips of their run to the Little League World Series championship, which they ultimately lost to a bunch of South Korean kids who didn’t cheat; but they’ll never be able to remove the asterisks next to their names.
The lesson they’ve learned is twofold: “Cheaters never win” and “if your coaches are cheating and you play along, you’re also cheating.” It’s a variation of the rules about criminals and their willing accomplices; if you drove the getaway car, you also robbed the bank. In cheating to win, they’ve debased not only baseball but themselves, their friends, their fans and their families. And victory isn’t worth their honor. At least, that’s the lesson they should have learned.
In reality, they’ve learned nothing of the sort. They’re the victims, you see. And that appropriated victimization worries me.
It worries me that people are making Jackie Robinson West out to be victims. It worries me because a group of kids who have already begun following the wrong people down the wrong path are being told that cheating is acceptable as long as you win and as long as the right people are cool with it. It worries me because this is becoming a nation in which politicians prove on a nearly daily basis that being corrupt — or even outright criminal — is considered acceptable as long as you win and as long as the right people are cool with it. It worries me because America, which was actually less venal when Jerry Springer was still on air, is only one or two race and/or sex scandals away from being worse than the people Springer considers too weird for TV. I worry because we are systematically breeding basic decency out of our population.
Don’t take this as some maudlin “these kids today” rant. These kids today are led by their hip little noses by these adults today. Kids today are neither more nor less likely to find trouble than kids last year, last decade or last generation. Their music, their clothes and their culture are neither more nor less ridiculous than their predecessors’, no matter what Ol’ Man McGrumpypants might say after telling those damned kids to get the hell off his lawn. However, these kids today are the first generation in American history to be openly encouraged to disgrace, defile and demean themselves, no matter what the prize. We’ve gone from “cheaters never win; winners never cheat” to “cheaters shouldn’t win; winners shouldn’t cheat” to “Cheat. Win. Get your own reality TV show.”
These kids today, from Jackie Robinson West to Mario Mendoza South, are being taught “don’t be Jackie Robinson; be Barry Bonds.” By the way, congratulations to the kids from Mountain Ridge Las Vegas. They won the 2014 Little League World Series U.S. championship, fair and square.