Saturday, November 24, 2007


My Dad was an original season ticket holder with the Dallas Cowboys in 1960 and a shareholder in the Cotton Bowl. I remember the anticipation that first year when he took me to a couple of Cowboy games and we sat in what was known then as the “Red Carpet” section (between the forty-fives) on the home side of the Cotton Bowl. I don’t remember who the Cowboys played though they would have been losses as a team of neophytes and has-beens struggled to keep their dignity through a 0-11-1 season. God bless Coach Tom Landry…

Always a staunch fan of the Cowboys, Dad kept those season tickets until the day he died in 1984. He developed friendships with many of those that sat in close proximity to him even to their transfer to Texas Stadium. In short, he was a true fan (more later) of the game that he played himself as a young man. Those tickets were proudly passed down to his fourth son, Coby Buxton, who despite the pressures of substantially increasing costs, ridiculous parking fees and $7.00 beer has kept his head high for Family and The Cowboys. All that might be ending, and probably not too soon.

Up to now there have been a lot of Coby Buxtons who through the thick and thin of pretty tough economic times and smaller checking accounts have prevailed as Dallas Cowboy season ticket holders because they were true FANS.

All that is lost on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who despite several generations of admirable loyalty is laying the price tag for the Cowboy’s share of the one billion+ US dollars cost of the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas ($675 million) squarely in the laps of his season ticket holders. The recently released price of tickets for season ticket holders includes a sobering, even somber reality that will see the price of the now $124.00 ticket almost triple in cost to $340.00 (Yikes).

That’s not the end; rather the beginning of what I feel is true extortion especially for those loyal, long time season ticket holders. Jones will be requiring his season ticket holders to pay nonrefundable “seat options” of from $16,000.00 to $50,000 per seat for the right to purchase season tickets for thirty years. For Coby and his two upper bowl, almost Club Level seats that will mean breaking into his piggy bank and forking over from $32,000.00 to $100,000.00 for the privilege. I think this is insane and so does Coby.

Some say that this is not all doom and gloom since the licenses are transferable and can rise in value. Eureka. That said, the seating licenses offered by some NFL teams have actually gone down in value and substantially so.

Fans generally demonstrate an intense sometimes obsessed/manic almost religious following for their teams. On TV yesterday I saw a Cowboy fan who painted a Cowboy helmet on his bald head, face mask and all who, no doubt, helped the Cowboys to their best start in franchise history (10-1) by defeating the NY Jets, 34-3. I got reacquainted with Uncle Sam and there were a few Elvis sightings. Of course, when you describe true fans you have to include the famous Washington Redskins Hogettes and those crazy Viking fans who used show up for football games in old Metropolitan Stadium in sub zero weather with those horned helmets and hardly anything else on. We never needed to do that in Dallas as we have the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Nuff said.

Scott Thorne and Gordon C. Bruner II in their 2006 "An Exploratory Investigation of the Characteristics of Consumer Fanaticism" identifies fan characteristics that includes the strong desire of the fan to be totally involved with the team, internally and externally even if it requires some financial sacrifices. That includes being aware of all club transactions, ability and condition of players, strategy, participating in chat rooms, blogs, attending conventions and everything in between including fantasy football. In order to accommodate their, yes, fanaticism, they will do this to their detriment even altering their lifestyle, if necessary.

Everybody wants to belong to a select group of like-minded folks, winners with a common goal and that’s where the guy with the helmet painted on his head and Uncle Sam and Elvis come into the picture. They punctuate the local Cowboy’s scene not unlike the Redskins' Hogettes. They are true fans and a critical part of the game.

With this latest news from Mr. Jones the loyal Cowboy fan base is now devolving into groups of sponsors who don’t really care about the teams they support. The quest for the almighty dollar is their mantra and Cowboy seats or a luxury box will be just another business expense and deduction. While some Fans might be left, the new stadium will become just another place to do business. The true fans will not be able to afford the game or even the parking unless they use the local rapid transit (DART), purchase standing room only (catch-as-catch-can) or nosebleed seats in the far upper corners of the new stadium or become dedicated tailgaters opting to just be close to the festivities. The players will become even more distant not unlike the gods on Mount Olympus, far from the madding crowd.

Entrepreneurial sorts are even developing portable theaters adjacent to the new stadium where fans can view the game on big screen TVs despite the fact that Jerry in an uncharacteristically generous fit apparently plans to project the Cowboy games on a big screen on the outside of the new stadium? Curiously, I think that my 46” HD Samsung in my snug confines (with nearby facilities) a more reasonable alternative to all this insanity – if I even decide to remain a Fan as the future probably bodes that we will only see Cowboy’s football via paid TV.

We are a far cry from September 3, 1895 when the first legitimate professional football game was played, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, between the Latrobe YMCA and the Jeannette Athletic Club. Latrobe won the contest 12–0. We’re also a long way from that 1961 gentlemanly, amateur football game between Williams College and Amherst College where non-scholarship student athletes took the field for alma mater and a sense of fraternity.

Dad would be very angry then sad to learn of these new developments in Dallas but would calmly say, “Coby, its OK, let them go...”


Ned Buxton

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I just watched The History of Thanksgiving on The History Channel hosted by CBS Early Show host, Harry Smith. For the most part, he did a good job but then ended the program by noting this grand celebration's date on the last Thursday in November (Yikes). They did their best to dispel all the old myths about the holiday and then blew it at the end!

Despite all the myths, Plimouth Plantation, the ultimate authority, reflects that the truth is the Pilgrims never celebrated what we now refer to as “Thanksgiving.” They did have a great three day secular “harvest feast” (Samhain anyone?) in 1621 (maybe around November 11?) with the Wampanoag First Nation (who brought most of the food) though they never repeated it at any point in their history. They never called it Thanksgiving and Pilgrim men never wore those black steeple hats with a buckle, black breeches, square white collar and cuffs and wide buckled belts.

Notwithstanding George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, we probably wouldn’t have this celebration were it not for a Mrs. Sarah Joespha Hale whose lobbying finally prompted Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, the last Thursday in November. The celebration of Thanksgiving on the next to the last Thursday in November was Theodore Roosevelt’s commercially inspired 1939 idea. In 1941 Congress declared Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November where it now proudly reposes.

Thanksgiving has evolved into a festive celebration of Family & Friends and a time to reflect on Life, express gratitude for our blessings and recognize the opportunities afforded to all free men to pursue their own destiny. This observance is not the exclusive domain of some alleged American Aristocracy, rather an inclusive celebration for all those that choose to embrace its tenets. We should never fail to pause at least once a year, take a deep breath and celebrate the blessings of Family and Friends for yet another twelve months.

In the Scottish Community we have a great habit of saying the names of our ancestors and our recently departed Friends and Family usually on the occasion of our many Scottish Festivals & Highland Games (Flowers of The Forest). On high occasions in a place of honor we will set out an empty plate, silverware and glass representing those who are no longer among the living or cannot attend the function. They are, then, with us in spirit. Thanksgiving seems most appropriate for this tradition.

All of this comes from a grand Mayflower descendent. My heroes growing up were Myles Standish and John Alden. I wonder if The Society of Mayflower Descendents will throw me out?

Thanks for being part of my Life and have a safe and prosperous holiday.

Yours, Aye

Ned Buxton

Saturday, November 17, 2007


The most recent November 2007, 48-0 drubbing that the Miami Hurricanes took at the hands of the mediocre (despite their record) Virginia Cavaliers seemed most fitting even as Miami was celebrating their seventy year home venue in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes are seemingly going the way of the deteriorating Orange Bowl which is scheduled for demolition in early January 2008. I for one find this trend most predictable and very satisfying – a payback for all those years of thuggery that gave football yet another black eye and set the stage for the lack of integrity that the game now, uh, enjoys?

A proud institution with a great reputation, football or not, the University of Miami seemingly put all its eggs in its football basket even in the wake of a 1995 NCAA declaration that the University had, “lost institutional control over its athletic program.” That was soon followed by a controversial Sports Illustrated cover story urging the university to drop their football program.

That didn’t happen and Hurricane football fortunes didn’t appear to suffer as Miami continued to build one of the great dynasties of college football earning bowl berths in all subsequent years and BCS national championship honors in 2001.

Still they couldn’t shake the reputation and historic image as a haven for thugs as they continued to recruit convicted felons (Willie Williams, 2004). Their arrogance and on-field play contradicted the magnitude of their “honorable” achievements. The trash/smack-talking Hurricanes have evolved their football game to the level of television wrestling where players having tackled a runner and ended a play, have routinely held the runner down and then stepping even on his helmet as they leave the area. No wonder lineman and other players immediately come to the aid of their fellow players as they unpile - lest they are injured.

Miami Football evolved into a gladiatorial, aggressive in-your-face encounter in the hood seemingly epitomized the startling recent taunting incidents that have plagued both college and professional football. Witness the recent Kevin Burnett (Tennessee not Miami) of the Cowboys who was recently fined $5,000 by the NFL for a taunting incident involving the NY Giants huge running back Brandon Jacobs. Burnett looked down at Jacobs who was still on the ground - on his back - and was screaming manically at him. While anyone who stops this incredibly talented, 6’ 4” 264 pound running back should be very proud, that little outburst cost the Cowboys dearly and potentially the football game. It’s good to see the NFL take action.

As an old hockey player I guess that intimidation is OK to a degree but when trash mouthing, cheap shots, other unsportsmanlike conduct and playing to the referee (REALLY, I caught it!) becomes an integral part of the game, it’s time to reset our clocks. We need a new mind set that will elevate the might of right and not the lowly behavior of thugs that characterized Miami football as late as 2006.

What about the December 2005 Peach Bowl where the LSU Tigers hammered the hapless Miami team 40-3. Miami’s violent mindset and attitude got them in trouble again when after the game LSU receiver Dwayne Bowe, from Miami, playfully took a Miami football from good Friend and Miami linebacker Joe Beason while the two teams were leaving the field. Some Miami players saw Bowe with a Miami football and to the horror of Beason assumed the worst and confronted Bowe in the LSU exit way (smart!). Helmet swinging and the fighting began with Miami coming up well short in this confrontation (violence begets violence). I ask, where were the coaches?

September 16, 2006 appears to be the acceleration of the great decline, witness the Hurricanes away game with the Louisville Cardinals. Before the start of their contest damn near the entire Hurricanes' roster jumped up and down on the Cardinals logo at midfield – behavior that could only have been construed as the ultimate lack of respect and unsportsmanlike conduct. The Louisville Cardinals responded by punctuating that ridiculous act by pounding the Hurricanes 31-7. I ask again, where were the coaches?

Not even one month later who can now forget the chilling third quarter of the Hurricane’s October 14, 2006 game with cross-town rival and substantial underdog Florida International University (FIU) which had only been playing football for five years. Miami and FIU engaged in a free-for-all brawl in which players threw punches, swung helmets and heaped even further disgrace on their program.

Doug Lederman of captured the essence of the problem at Miami when he wrote in 2006, “Perhaps the most troubling moment came once the melee had ended, after police officers had driven the teams back to their respective sidelines. There, as the referees decided what penalties to mete out and the two teams’ coaches tried to restore peace, the Miami players huddled en masse and began jumping with their helmets aloft, in apparent celebration. After what had just unfolded, what they were celebrating was not clear.” Where were the coaches?

The red warning flag should have already been flying like the hurricane flags before Hurricane Katrina especially noting that the above was the third on-field incident in seven games not including other off-field incidents that included shootings and accusations against Miami football players. Perhaps we can get Mike Nifong a job in Miami – lots of fertile ground and he wouldn’t have to lie?

Following the Miami-FIU brawl, University of Miami President Donna Shalala exacerbated the situation as follows.

“I believe that the young men we have recruited for our football team are young men of great character. But they did a very bad thing. This university will be firm and punish people who do bad things. But we will not throw any student under the bus for instant restoration of our image or our reputation. I will not hang them in a public square. I will not eliminate their participation at the university. I will not take away their scholarships. It’s time for the feeding frenzy to stop. These young men made a stupid, terrible, horrible mistake and they are being punished.”

Though, no doubt, some players should have been charged criminally, Shalala’s idea of punishment was one game suspensions as the football players laughed all the way to their lockers.

Peter Roby, Director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society reflected more macro concerns. Roby wondered about the messages being sent to our youth and the potential of criminal charges that should have been filed (that never were) against the involved football players. Further exclaiming that the local district attorney had the right to say, “We can’t allow this type of thing to happen just because it’s on the field of play.”

Many years ago (for two years) I refereed in the Cobb County, Georgia Youth Football League. One of the stipulations of that league was that all players on the roster were required to play. Midway through the third quarter I always conferred with the coaches and let them know that I would be expecting to see all players get some game time.

As expected, many games were competitive with fourth quarter performance critical to the outcome of the game. Yes, those that were riding the bench were probably the least talented on their teams though they had the right to be involved in the game per league rules. When I invoked the rules the anguish/vitriol and profanity that gushed from the parents in the stands was incredible. I was chewed out and threatened (nose to nose) time after time by onerous parents that were living vicariously through their kids who witnessed these immature outbursts. This then is the tone and the values that many of these kids grew up with and took to high school and college. Needless to say, many officials, including me, quit because of this abuse.

I am reminded of the Comcast Sports Southeast color analyst and former University of Miami player Lamar Thomas who, as the Miami and FIU brawl raged out of control, exclaimed on live national TV,

"Now, that's what I'm talking about. You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked. You don't come into the Orange Bowl playing that stuff. You're across the ocean over there. You're across the city. You can't come over to our place talking noise like that. You'll get your butt beat. I was about to go down the elevator to get in that thing. I say, why don't they just meet outside in the tunnel after the ball game and get it on some more? You don't come into the Orange Bowl, baby," Thomas said. "We've had a down couple years but you don't come in here talking smack. Not in our house."

By the way, this is the same Lamar Thomas who was:

· Arrested and jailed for aggravated battery for attacking his pregnant fiancée with a deadly weapon.

· Arrested for violating probation.

· Detained for brandishing a handgun and threatening suicide, prompting authorities to check him in to a mental institution.

· Did jail time for again violating probation related to the battery charges, when he was arrested for again choking his fiancée. His six-month old son was present at the scene.

Fittingly, and a sign that business is slowly coming to its senses, Lamar Thomas was fired for his ridiculous, immature outburst. If he had only been held to a stricter standard before then maybe he wouldn’t have had his trouble with the law and still have his job with Comcast.

Maybe when the University of Miami administration gets their heads straight and the Hurricanes move to Dolphin Stadium in 2008 there can be a new start and parents will, once again, want to send their talented sons to the University of Miami to play football. Until then, if you continue to recruit thugs you’ll get hoodlum activity on the gridiron. Goes around, comes around.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, November 10, 2007


My Father, Coburn Allen Buxton, operated a highly regarded and well-known kennel in Dallas, Texas where he raised German Shepherds for many years. He named it Brunonia Kennels to honor Brown University where he attended for two years and where many other Buxtons (including his Father and Uncle) have called their academic home. Indeed, Buxton House still exists on that Providence campus as a testament and memorial of the life of Colonel G. Edward Buxton, Jr. By the way, Brunonia Kennels still remains within the Buxton domain. Dad generated many champions to especially include Susan of Flowdale who was also my literal constant companion as I grew up. Yes, I was a Brown Man Born though am Ole Miss proud.

I was reminded by my Mother (many times and generally in adult mixed company) of that time when at two years of age and within an enclosure inside our fenced front yard, I managed to remove all my clothing and negotiate those boundaries and go on a great summer quest down the searing and bubbly hot asphalt of Meadowbrook Lane in Preston Hollow.

Some horrified and many bemused neighbors tried to approach this beautiful specimen of a tot and rescue him from the elements that I apparently preferred at that point. They couldn’t get within ten feet of this kid as his dog, (yep) Susan of Flowdale shielded the lad and kept all those who would do him harm - away. She was literally by my side as I circumnavigated the cul-de-sac several times and started to wander towards Walnut Hill Lane. At the behest of these concerned neighbors Mother finally came out and retrieved me though I was in good hands/paws.

So what does all that have to do with our world in 2007? Well, I just came across a joke distributed by a large and well regarded Scottish newspaper that goes as follows:

“Lateral Thinking

A school bus, full of primary school kids, was taking them home one day when a fire engine, lights flashing and siren sounding loudly, zoomed past. The kids crowded to the windows and were surprised to see a large Alsatian sitting in the front seat of the fire engine. The children began to discuss what the dog was going to do at the fire. One youngster suggested "They use him to keep crowds back." Another kid said firmly "He's just there for good luck." A third child, who would obviously go far in life due to his ability to think "out of the box" surmised: "They use the dog to find the fire hydrant."

Alsatian did you say? I am reminded by history that Alsatian was a World War One propaganda term for the German Shepherd dog. Well before that, Charlemagne’s empire building was compromised on his death in 841 by his sons who accelerated the controversy over Alsace. Even to “modern times” Alsace was a part of Germany until 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia gave Alsace to France. Comes along the Franco-Prussian War that saw Germany once again regain Alsace in 1870. Comes along WWI when France annexed Alsace back in 1918. Then, of course, we had that Hitler thing back in 1940-1945 and the ultimate (for now) restoration to France of the Alsace region.

In the wake of WWI anti-German sentiment was still very high and prompted many to literally change German-oriented names. That included the English Kennel Club who in 1919 gave the German Shepherd a separate register, the Alsatian, a name that is apparently still used throughout the UK. The breed became known as the Alsatian Wolf Dog (Gads!). It wasn’t until 1977 that this tag was dropped by the British Kennel Club though the animal had long been known in the USA, Australia and most other countries as the German Shepherd dog. I never heard Dad call them by any other name and that dates from the very early 1950’s.

So here we are in the 21st century and we see the remnants of WWI propaganda still being used in our world the least of which is the example we cite here. Lest some think this an old joke resurrected for our contemporary enjoyment, we need note use of the terms “think out of the box” and “lateral thinking”, were certainly not used until very recent times.

Maybe this is one of those terms that used to excess has lost its meaning and now has become the norm - though I take offense with its use given its original intent. As the inheritor of Mowgli, Romulus and Remus, I would think that Susan of Flowdale (May she rest in peace) was much too sensitive and wouldn’t like to be known as an Alsatian Wolf Dog.

Rah, Rah, Brunonia, BROWN, BROWN, BROWN.


Ned Buxton

Sunday, November 4, 2007


The Reverend Fredric J. Muir, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Maryland was so impressed with a story told by Stephen Carter, American law professor, writer, columnist and the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School in his book Integrity (Harper Collins, 1996) that he made it the focus for one of his many moving sermons which he appropriately titled, With Integrity.

The Reverend Muir recounts Carter’s words which reflect my sentiments,

“A couple of years ago as I sat watching a television football game with my children, trying to explain to them what was going on, I was struck by an event I had often noticed but on which I had never reflected. A player who failed to catch a ball thrown his way hit the ground, rolled over, and then jumped-up, celebrating as though he had caught the pass after all. The referee was standing in a position that did not give him a good view of what had happened, was fooled by the player's pretense, and so moved the ball down the field. The player rushed back to the huddle so that his team could run another play before the officials had a chance to review the play.

National Football League officials can watch a television replay and change their call, as long as the next play has not been run. But viewers at home have the benefit of the replay (from many different angles), and we saw what the referee missed: the ball lying on the ground instead of snug in the receiver's hands. The only comment from the broadcasters: "What a heads-up play!" Meaning: "Wow, what a great liar this kid is! Well done!"

Let's be very clear: that is exactly what they meant. The player set out to mislead the referee and succeeded; he helped his team to obtain an advantage in the game that it had not earned. It could not have been accidental. He knew he did not catch the ball.

By jumping up and celebrating, he was trying to convey a false impression. He was trying to convince the officials that he had caught the ball. And the officials believed him. So, in any ordinary understanding of the word, he lied. And that, too, is what happens to integrity in American life: if we happen to do something wrong, we would just as soon have nobody point it out.

Now, suppose that the player had instead gone to the referee and said, "I'm sorry, sir, but I did not make the catch. Your call is wrong." Probably his coach and teammates and most of his team's fans would have been furious: he would not have been a good team player. The good team player lies to the referee, and does so in a manner that is at once blatant (because millions of viewers see it) and virtually impossible for the referee to detect.

Having pulled off this trickery, the player is congratulated: he is told that he has made a heads-up play. Thus, the ethic of the game turns out to be an ethic that rewards cheating. Perhaps I should have been shocked. Yet, thinking through the implications of our celebration of a national sport that rewards cheating, I could not help but recognize that we as a nation too often lack integrity, which might be described, in a loose and colloquial way, as the courage of one's convictions.”

I certainly agree with the Rev Muir and Stephen Carter that integrity remains a major issue though I question whether it necessarily relates to one’s convictions. If rejecting honesty and integrity (the absence of a moral code) is a convention by itself, then we may agree. I believe that many in our society sincerely believe (viscerally) that the end justifies the means not unlike Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko character in the 1987 movie Wall Street where anything goes in his pursuit of the almighty dollar.

There’s a new energy in the old paradigm that all’s fair in love/war/business and in all aspects of our lives! It certainly appears that the only real negative admonition for not telling the truth is “Don’t get caught.” Instant replay on both the collegiate and professional sports levels and a renewed oversight in the business community (move over Dennis Kozlowski and Ken Lay) has further revealed the festering sore of our failing morality.

No need to get all George Washington misty and invoke the cherry-tree incident, the faux Parson Mason Locke Washingtonian legend that had George admitting that he had cut down the fictional apple tree? The act despicable though the sentiment admirable, punctuates a moral code that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. High Schools and colleges are now required to teach our children how to be honest and ethical. Bottom line: parents are not teaching their kids about honesty and many bookstores even sell books that teach their readers how to cheat?

Cheating has become acceptable behavior and a terrible influence that so-called “role models” (whether they be baseball or football players or businessmen) are having on our kids. Our children and the generations that follow are all seemingly doomed to fall into a moral abyss.

Now, just as soon as I’ve communicated that sentiment I can recall a Williams College football team and specifically their game with Amherst in 1961 on a cold, muddy, November Massachusetts field which was eventually won by Williams, 12-0. In this Biggest Little Game in America I learned a life lesson of honesty and integrity. For me it remains the best and most significant football game I have ever watched.

The field was filled with non-scholarship players (many without face masks) who bathed in mud, literally gave everything they had to earn a victory that would help define their collegiate experience. Former Williams College coach Dick Farley was known to say before each Amherst game, "Three hours to play, a lifetime to remember." Those words guided their actions which were shared by all the players on the field that day.

I remember one player (forgot whether it was Amherst or Williams) credited with a catch who honestly admitted that he had not caught the ball. This was no big deal, rather shrugged off instantly as just another aspect of the game. After all, is football played any other way? Today that act would literally make headlines on FOX and CNN .

Well, now comes along Charles Rozell "Chuck" Swindoll the senior pastor of the Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas who in his The Tale of The Tardy Oxcart, shares insights from his lifelong collection of his and others' personal stories, sermons, and anecdotes. One such story punctuates our theme.

“There was a young Christian man at a Southern university. He made the football team as the starting split end. And he continually was before God saying, "Help me in the climax of moments to be absolutely honest. I pray for honesty--that one mark of integrity. I want to be that, Lord, and I'll work on it through the season."

The rival team came that night, homecoming. He ran his route and went into the end zone. The quarterback shot him the pass and he got it low. He landed on it, and the referee shouted, "Touchdown!" But that boy knew he had trapped the ball. (For you who aren't into that, it means that he didn't really catch it. He landed on it while it was on the ground and it looked like he caught it). The stands were just cheering, you know, sending him on his way as the hero of the game. He said, "Wait a minute." Can you imagine this?: walked up to the referee and shook his head. He said, "I trapped it." The referee canceled the touchdown and they lost the game.

Now you may not understand much about football, but you know what it is to be a fan. And that boy stood all alone, not only against a team that said, "What does it matter, man?" but against the stands full of people. He said, ‘I can't take the credit. I did not catch it.’”

We don’t know nor did Swindoll reflect on the ultimate consequences of this young man’s honesty. We are, however, further reminded of an incident of honesty with documented consequences as related by Canadian Jim Clemmer who regularly comments on items of interest in our society.

“Seven-year-old first baseman, Tanner Munsey, fielded a ground ball and tried to tag a runner going from first to second base. The umpire, Laura Benson, called the runner out, but young Tanner immediately ran to her side and said, "Ma'am, I didn't tag the runner." Umpire Benson reversed herself, sent the runner to second base, and Tanner's coach gave him the game ball for his honesty.

Two weeks later, Laura Benson was again the umpire and Tanner was playing shortstop when a similar play occurred. This time Benson ruled that Tanner had missed the tag on a runner going to third base, and she called the runner safe. Tanner looked at Benson and, without saying a word, tossed the ball to the catcher and returned to his position. Benson sensed something was wrong. "Did you tag the runner?" she asked Tanner. "Yes," he replied. Benson then called the runner out. The opposing coaches protested until she explained what had happened two weeks earlier. "If a kid is that honest," she said, "I have to give it to him."

So, we see that honesty is ultimately rewarded as trust was established between player and umpire. What a grand life lesson this incident offers! You might like to know that Tanner was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2000 and is now a catcher with the Cleveland Indians organization.

The smoke and mirrors of exorbitant money and self-aggrandizement has corrupted all levels of modern professional sports. Many professional athletes have even developed a disdain for the fans, rules of the game and for the rule of law. In an ultimate paradox many of those competitors who kneel in prayer with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before and following their games lie, cheat and deceive in order to bring victory to their camp. The so-called Christian concepts of honesty and integrity are left in the backwash of victory - whatever the cost. Legendary Packer coach Vince Lombardi would have rejected a victory won at the expense of honesty and integrity.

Our desire to have our place in the sun, to win, to achieve fame has to be balanced by principles of integrity. As Carter continues, “We need to encourage and promote wholeness, completeness, the undivided self, the summation of emotional, physical and spiritual life - we are all about integrity.” Athletes, at least, need to be counseled to play the game, not the referees.

I recommend that we reward those who embrace and live by the principles of honesty and integrity and punish those athletes who lie and cheat their way to mediocrity or stardom. Players caught cheating (especially documented in a replay situation) should be red-flagged, booted from a game and sanctioned by the league. Teams should be penalized both during and after the game (read my lips Coach Belichick).

Some folks wax eloquent and state that pushing boundaries is only human and comes natural to us. That humanity, however, cannot remain an excuse to cheat and gain an unfair advantage. Those that admit a Jekyll & Hyde personality that reflects both good and evil; that cheating and being a good sport are normal and a reflection of our humanity are just plain missing the mark. These are the ultimate enablers and an incredible part of the problem.

NBC Sports commentator Jimmy Roberts recently placed a New Year’s wish that would see, “a football or baseball player admit to an official that he didn’t really catch the ball – that it hit the ground.”

Now that would be something to see! Wouldn’t that cause a ruckus! If we could just replay that November, 1961 Williams-Amherst football game where, for reasons no greater or less than honor and integrity, those student athletes competed on the gridiron?


Ned Buxton