Scandal teaches us to keep sports in perspective

(Bedford) Times-Mail

Alas, the sports realm is reeling from yet another scandal, and this one stretches across several continents.

More than 10 people already have been indicted following an investigation by the FBI into wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. The investigation is focusing on collusion between soccer associations and sports marketing executives. The charges are widespread and allege the employment of bribery, fraud and money laundering to secure media and marketing rights for International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) events.

FBI agents recently arrested officials meeting in Switzerland. A high-ranking FIFA official allegedly transferred $10 million from FIFA to accounts controlled by another soccer official to help South Africa secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup.

Sports, once considered a healthy diversion from the dog-eat-dog politics of the “real world,” continues to be tainted by those seeking to profit from the realm’s enormous entertainment value. A series of blemishes have scarred our nation’s most popular pastimes.

Baseball was rocked by the Black Sox scandal of 1919, revelations of Pete Rose’s gambling habits, and then the devastating steroid scandal that has rendered many statistical standards meaningless.

More recently, the NFL was forced to endure the New Orleans “bounty” affair and New England’s DeflateGate, along with numerous embarrassing domestic violence incidents involving prominent players.

College basketball was stained by the Boston College point-shaving affair, then Penn State’s proud football program was punished severely following a humbling sex abuse scandal involving a coach.

Even Little League baseball has been rocked by reports of illegal players and unfair play.

Sports should promote positive values. When competitors fail to follow prescribed rules, the results are rendered irrelevant.

As individuals, there is little we can do to assure international sporting associations operate on the up-and-up.

However, quality control is achievable at the local level. By carefully choosing the individuals responsible for running recreational youth programming we enhance the likelihood of our children reaping positive rewards that competition can offer rather than the somber lessons reflected in recent headlines.

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