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Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 1999 /28 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

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'Everybody does it': Cheating vs. Character -- I hope it's been enough months since America's hysteria over winning the Women's World Soccer Cup that talking about the illegal win won't get me stoned or tarred and feathered by the Title IX zealots. Evidently, we cheated; we knew we cheated; and we didn't care. This is honor? Sportsmanship? Character?

In July, I received a letter from a frustrated father in Louisiana. He wrote: "'Everybody does it. It's only cheating if you get caught.' Much to my dismay, this quote came from Briana Scurry, the goalkeeper for the United States soccer team, who acknowledged that she cheated when making the save that recently helped her team win the Women's World Cup. What a message for her to send to the tens of thousands of young girls for whom she is a role model and hero.

"Unfortunately, her casual dismissal of a blatant violation of the rules that govern her sport seems to be shared almost universally. Trying to teach my 3 1/2-year-old daughter right from wrong is certainly not made any easier when faced with such a pervasive disregard and lack of respect for the rules ... so long as you don't get caught. But you can bet that I will use this poor rationale for cheating during those pivotal teaching/learning moments with my daughter now and in the future. She will know that the most important thing is not whether you win or lose ... it's how you play the game!"

Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was reading from this middle-America dad. This just couldn't be right. So I had my assistant go online, and sure enough, there it was on Newsmax: "U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry admits that she stretched the rules in making the diving save that was crucial to her team's World Cup win over China."

"Everybody does it," the Los Angeles Times quoted Scurry as saying. "It's only cheating if you get caught."

The "it" concerns the direction of movement of the goalkeeper, who can move only side to side along the goal line before a player attempts a penalty kick. Scurry moved FORWARD in a "save that ... required a tremendous amount of athleticism -- it was a beautiful save," said yet another American official. "It's not a big deal," said U.S. team spokesman Aaron Heifetz. "Never has there been a penalty kick in the history of soccer when a goalkeeper didn't cheat off the line," he said.

Huh? No big deal?

I thought we were all in a frenzy to introduce values and character education into the schools. Of course, most of us recognize this as a propaganda sham. Current progressive-values education is really a way of indoctrinating children to tolerate everything, judge nothing as right or wrong/good or evil, conform to the politically correct agenda of the day, and most important, perceive ethics to be situational and utilitarian, as opposed to eternal and universal. Clearly, the "tolerance" of this cheater fits into this program quite well, don't you think?

I don't remember any uproar about Scurry's deed or comments. I don't remember ferocious debates or analyses about whether her valiant "save" was cheating. I only remember endless commentary about the players' buff physiques, potential for endorsements, speaking engagements, and rallies to motivate young girls to follow in their footsteps. Yikes, I hope not.

Another listener to my radio program, Cindy, wrote about her disgust over this issue. "'A beautiful save.' The end (winning) justifies the means (cheating)? Should this not make you wonder even more about the removal of integrity from top to bottom in our society, and how we can on the one hand call for character education in schools -- when so many adults haven't a clue about what character is supposed to be? When everybody does it (cheats), where do you draw the line? Police department? Doctors' offices? Banks? Insurance companies? Bridge construction? Railroads? Airplanes? Drug companies?"

Sadly, as we already know, lying (cheating people of the truth) is reasonably acceptable in our society, as evidenced by the majority of people surveyed during the Clinton scandals who defended lying out of embarrassment or about sex, especially those who "liked Clinton's policies."

Personally, I'm relieved that my 14-year-old son considers Briana Scurry "a loser." How's it going in your home?

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©1999, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of Universal New Media and Universal Press Syndicate.