SHEPHERDSVILLE - Years ago when my uncle died his tombstone included the likeness of a basketball goal and a ball with the University of Kentucky logo on it.
These days I wish their places were reversed: Uncle John here and local college basketball put to rest.
I grew up in this area and have always been a basketball fan. I used to play it. I keep the March Madness grids each year.
Now I think I’ve actually had enough.
I followed all three of the area’s major schools: Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana. I’ve always rooted for all three.
Some years ago the Bob Knight saga took place at Indiana. I didn’t really know what to think about it all at the time.
Now I know what to think.
Indiana eventually hired a coach already on probation with another team, who cheated again and was fired. The university suffered the damage while the coach walked away with a large sum of guaranteed contract money.
Kentucky hired a coach it disliked and fired him the first chance it could. He may also wind up with a big paycheck.
The new Kentucky coach is one who has never been officially accused of cheating. But I’ve lost count of the number of players that have cheated while playing for him at more than one college.
In those cases, the school was severely penalized, while the players made millions in the National Basketball Association.
Louisville’s coach engulfed all of this by telling me, my family, my community, and every sports fan in America that a married man sleeping with a married woman in a restaurant after hours and later paying her for “medical reasons” was okay, on the basis that it was not an illegal act.
There’s a new sportsmanship, one that has returned from the Stone Age: Do whatever you want and all will be forgiven... so long as you win.
This new thinking is now evident in many sports. In baseball you can take all the illegal drugs you want. If you get caught you just sit out for a while and eventually all will be forgiven... so long as you win.
In football you can carry concealed weapons everywhere you go, no matter how dangerous. And if you’re good at what you do, feel free to fight dogs on the side.
If caught, the punishments might seem harsh, but eventually all will be forgiven and you’ll still make lots of money... so long as you win.
The new thinking covers every facet of every sport. In golf you can throw clubs and screech swear words and blame others when you hit a bad ball... so long as you win.
Take note, Bullitt County: We’re now telling our children that if they want to be the best in sports, they can cheat all they want until they get caught. Then they just need to deny, deny, deny, at least until they are guaranteed a big payoff. They can later hold a press conference and simply ask for forgiveness for doing something illegal or for doing something unethical that was not considered illegal.
I suppose the next level of this thinking would be taking food, jewelry, automobiles, homes and various family members from die-hard fans, without any serious questioning. Some might complain, some might protest, but it’s all okay... so long as you’re winning.
I wrote this to remind everyone, from local coaches to teachers to parents to the young future athletes: Anyone involved in sports must teach sportsmanship to those who are participating.
Sportsmanship is something that can be learned through sports and carried over into real life, where there are consequences for your actions.
Or at least we hope.
As for me, I’ll be fine replacing my college basketball time with experiencing the thrill of games played by many nieces and nephews who still play for fun.
And I can still watch for fun, maybe even offering a little advice now and then on sportsmanship.