I had just finished my second season of Junior High School Football at PCVS in Peterborough, Ontario, and we were about to play our nemesis, Adam Scott, when word reached us.
Our team was being disqualified.
We learned that one of our star players, who had transferred to our school that summer, was ineligible. He claimed to be 15, and qualified to play for our team. He was 16. We played that league final without him, and won, but officially, we had an 0-for season. All our wins were wiped out. We didn’t know it, but we had cheated.
Today, as we’re in the midst of this novel coronavirus pandemic, there are few things that get us as riled up as those who are trying to cheat, whether it’s hoarding all the toilet paper or gouging people with crazy prices for hand-sanitizer out of the trunk of a car. We seek fairness, but we also know that the worst of times can bring out the worst in people. It can also bring out the best in people. And, it can bring out the worst when people are trying to be seen as the best.
I’ve been thinking a lot about character the last few days. My memory was spurred by the Houston Astro’s “Buzzergate” scandal, surrounding their 2017 World Series win. What started as a pitch-stealing scheme became a process where players in the dugout would watch the catcher’s signs on live video, and someone would bang on a garbage can to let their batter know what pitch to expect. It became even more creative when at least a couple of players are alleged to have worn a buzzer underneath their uniforms which someone in the dugout would activate to tell them what type of pitch was coming up. At the Major League level, this kind of information is invaluable.
Both the Astor’s manager and general manager have been fired. Their former bench coach had created this scheme, and took it to the Boston Red Sox the following year, when they won the World Series. He is currently unemployed.
There are so many examples of cheating in the sports world:
1980, Rosie Ruiz, apparently won the Boston Marathon, but she actually used the subway for part of the race.
Marion Jones, won five medals at the 2000 Olympics, but admitted using a steroid, handing back her medals, and spent six months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors.
How about Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly. While getting ready for the 1994 Winter Olympics, Gillooly struck Nancy Kerrigan on the knee with a baton.
New England Patriots – 2007 videotaping the Jet’s hand signals, and in 2015, there was “deflategate.”
And I’ll never forget Ben Johnson running a 9.79 100-meter at the ‘88 Seoul Olympics, only to test positive for Stanazolol, a steroid approved for veterinary medicine. Yeesh.
So many people who have become heroes to so many, and who fell so far.
In the sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, Jesus makes it pretty clear that our behaviour is the result of our thinking and attitudes.
Squeeze an orange, and you get orange juice.
What you are is what you get.
Your behavior is the perpetual revealing of yourself.
What you do tells everyone who and what you are.
Circumstances reveal character – they don’t create character.
In Proverbs 23:7, we read, “As he thinks within himself, so he is.” Your actions reveal your character.
Will Craig says, “Heroes are not perfect. They have character flaws, quirks, and imperfections. They have their share of vices, suffer from doubt, and experience fear of failure. In short, they’re just like you and me… The essence of what makes a hero a hero, however, is the willingness to serve others and to give themselves to the greater good…the maxim of the hero is ‘to serve and sacrifice.'”
In the middle of this pandemic crisis, if Craig is right, and our aspiration ought to be service and sacrifice, that requires a different kind of heart. A servant’s heart.
A sacrificial heart. A transformed heart. The type of heart that only God can create. He says to his people in Ezekiel 36:25-26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Let’s ask the Spirit to keep transforming our hearts today.