02 May 2012
Are 'mercy rules' really all that fair in life?
I generally think of myself as an extremely kind-hearted and charitable person, and I have always valued and advocated for concepts like fairness, justice and equity.
A recent radio program, however, forced me to take a serious look at my own personal value system and to question whether or not I am actually a Scrooge in disguise.
Recently, I was listening to 97.1 while driving home from St. Louis, and the program began with the typical political gripe session, then quickly evolved into a debate on fairness and charity.
Specifically, the host was angry about a recent change to the mercy rule in public school soccer games that is apparently catching fire in many parts of the country.
The new rule dictates that all soccer games must be kept to a spread of no more than 7 points.
Some might not consider this topic to be very controversial.
After all, mercy rules have been around for years, and they help prevent less-talented teams from the embarrassment of losing games by huge margins.
The new mercy rule in question, however, requires any soccer team that gets ahead of their opponent by more than 7 points to forfeit the game.
The victory is then awarded to the team that is behind in points.
Does anyone else think this is ridiculous, or am I the only one insensitive enough to believe that if you are behind in points when the game ends you lose?
What does a team gain by being handed a victory they did not earn, and how would some of the student athletes on this campus feel if they were forced to hold down their point totals or risk losing their games via forfeit?
“I feel like there is a point in time where you have to be respectful of the losing team and not embarrass them,” said Amanda Alcamo, who graduated in May and worked with athletics while a student at MBU. “That doesn’t mean that you play down but you don’t necessarily need to charge ahead full steam. I’ve been on losing teams and I can remember being so embarrassed that I didn’t want to play anymore. That said, you don’t just hand the losing team the victory to spare their feelings.”
Of course there are those who will argue that what’s really important is not the concept of winning and losing at all but the protection of one’s self-esteem, and that preventing a loss of more than 7 points is an act of compassion.
What that argument fails to take into consideration, however, is that self-esteem is something that develops over time as the result of life experiences, relationships with others and individual accomplishments.
Teaching someone they cannot fail or lose regardless of how poorly they perform is actually an act of cruelty rather than kindness, as it sets that person up for failure at some point in the future when he or she is no longer protected and insulated from life’s harsher realities.
Mine is certainly no rags-to-riches, pull-myself-up-by-my-boot-straps kind of a story, and I have always been blessed with friends and family members who were willing to help me if I needed it, but I have had to work very hard for all I’ve acquired, and I have put the same amount of effort and dedication into my failures as I have my triumphs.
In fact, I have learned just as much from my failures as I have my successes.
From failing, I have developed toughness, perseverance, a thick skin, coping strategies and the ability to make new and better efforts.
My successes, on the other hand, have taught me just how much personal satisfaction can come from hard work and honest effort.
They have also engendered me with the ability to set goals, be a self-starter and to not take anything for granted.
I believe these traits, along with the realization that I am nothing without God, and that any fame and glory I gain on this Earth belongs to him, are the most important attributes I or anyone else can develop.
If we remove from our society the possibility of losing, failing or falling short of the mark, we also remove the character development that occurs in most people as a result of these experiences, and there isn’t anything fair or charitable about that.
Winning should mean something, and should represent the culmination of hours, days, months and years of hard work and dedication spent in the pursuit of excellence.
That is something you can’t create for other people -- they have to experience it for themselves.