In today’s society, it is not much of a surprise when an athlete comes out with a confession about using performance enhancing drugs. From Lance Armstrong to Mark McGuire, many athletes have been accused and admitted of taking steroids. I think that recently there has been a push to return sports to the once ethical level that they were played at, such as a crackdown on the steroid policy in many sports. People often think that by being ethical, you give up the competitive edge that drives sports. Being an athlete and a major fan of most sports, I do get hung up on the role ethics plays in the competitive nature of sports. I do think that you can be ethical and still hard core compete to win. My life has revolved around sports. I played a sport every season in high school and traveled frequently for golf. Growing up, I was taught to play hard, but play clean. I think there is a fine line between competitiveness and cheating that we find athletes are constantly teetering on today. While I think that every athlete and organization should make an effort to instill ethics in the sport, I think some sports thrive on ethics while other sports need referees and tests to keep athletes from straying away from being clean.
Golf is one of the only sports that players call penalties on themselves and there are no referees or tests. There are rules officials, but you have to call one one of them over for them to get involved. Trust is such an important element of the game of golf. You are responsible for keeping your own score and one of your competitors scores correctly . Most of the time if my playing competitors are not in the fairway, I cannot see their golf ball. Everyone trusts each other to not improve their lie or lie about whether or not their golf ball is in bounds or not. You are trusted not to alter you on score on your scorecard and trusted to know the real rules of the game. If you think about it, ethics is the foundation for the game of golf. You rarely hear about cheating in golf because players know how important ethics is to the game. I think golf is the ultimately test of one’s morals because it shows what a person will really do when no one is watching. Ethics and competitiveness go hand in hand in golf because you truly need both to be successful in the game.
The most famous example of ethics in golf involved one of golf’s greatest players, Bobby Jones. In the 1929 U.S. Open, Bobby Jones was tied for the lead going down the 72nd hole, which is the last hole in a professional tournament. The U.S. Open is one of the four majors in golf so it is a tremendous accomplishment to even play in the tournament let alone win it. Bobby Jones called a one-stroke penalty on himself stating that when he addressed the ball it moved slightly. Bobby Jones was in position to win the tournament when he called a penalty on himself. He finished second, one shot out of the lead. Some tournament officials lavished praise on him for his honesty. He replied, “Praising me for that is like praising me for not robbing a bank!” He did not lose his competitiveness when he called a penalty on himself. If he did not call the penalty, he would have cheated and won unfairly.
In the end, I think that ethics does have a place in the competitive nature of sports. Its role in every sport is different. Ethics is one of the founding ideals of golf while football has referees to determine sportsmanship. Golf shows that ethics can improve a sport instead of being criticized for hindering some sports. There is room for both ethics and competitiveness in sports to some extent. I am a very competitive person by nature and I love winning, but I make sure that I win fair and square. Winning by cheating, like using steroids, is not only horrible for the sport, but it does not reflect the values that most of us try to live by.