By: Jim Brown, Jim Brown's Common Sense
For as far back as I can remember, Saturday mornings were spent on a playing field, a basketball court, or at a swimming pool cheering on kids and now grandkids in their (and my) quest for them to participate and be a part of the team. Of course I wanted them to hit the winning home run or to be the leading scorer. But the important thing was that there showed up and gave it their best. Maybe they sat on the bench and didn't play all that much, but they were still part of the squad. And, at the end of the season, they received a team trophy.
Now along comes Pittsburg Steeler linebacker James Harrison, who announces to the world that he has confiscated the trophies of his two sons, ages 6 and 8, apparently to teach them a lesson that you should not get a trophy for participating, but only if they "earned" it, whatever that means. Now Harrison's admonition to his boys comes from a football player who is noted for "head butting" when he tackles, and for beating up his girlfriend, smashing down a door, and braking her cell phone to prevent her from calling the cops.
If you missed Harrison's rant to his 186,000 Instagram followers, here's what he chided:
"I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best ... cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better ... not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut up and keep you happy."
Harrison immediately received a wave of support with over 13,000 "Likes," whole hearted agreement from a number of sports columnists, and even a positive nod from the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Their feeling is that everyone getting a trophy is so passe and that it's time to "toughen up" our kids. A recent Reason-Rupe poll found that 57% of those polled think only winning players should get a trophy. My reaction? Hogwash!
Look, if your kids show up and give it their best shot, they are doing more than a majority of youngsters in American are doing today. They are not home playing video games, vegging out and watching TV. And if a child does not play in competition, he or she is at practice helping those who do become better players. That ought to be worth something.
Several of my kids did not start on the team and did not play all that much. But they regularly practiced and gave full support to their team members. Maybe they never scored or set a record. But they sure were proud of their trophies, knowing that week in and week out, they gave it their best.
Harrison might want to look at his own NFL sport. If his team wins the Superbowl and he never gets in the game, he still gets a victor's ring. On a recent flight, I sat next to the New York Yankee team doctor, who proudly showed me his World Series diamond ring. "Everybody that is connected to the team gets one," he told me. "For participating and helping the team." So it's OK to get a trophy or other prize as a major leaguer even if you never play a moment, but not OK if your kid helps his T-ball team by showing up at practice being regularly on the sidelines at game time cheering them on? Give me a break.
Accomplishment comes in many ways. If a child isn't good enough to play, he should be challenged to get back up a try again. And quit denying him the right to get a trophy. After all, I have inherited a whole horde that my kids acquired in years past. Isn't that what parents and grandparent's fireplace mantles are for?
"My old coach used to say that if you were in it for the trophies, you were in it for the wrong reasons."
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown's syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com
. You can also hear Jim's nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com