Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

May 25, 2014

My life as an All-American and scholar

I’ve long believed the downfall of Western civilization has been accelerated, in part, by the invention of the participation trophy. Based on something I saw on Facebook (and if it’s on the Internet it has to be true), I am to assume the people who run North Hill Elementary School in Rochester Hills, Mich., do not share this view.

On Friday, June 6, North Hill Elementary will hold its annual Field Day for the children of the school. A flyer was sent to parents, with a photo of said flyer being shown on the Facebook post (further validating the trueness of this weenieized affair), urging one and all to come join the “laughs and lots of fun, in a carnival like atmosphere.”

The flyer then went on to read, “The purpose of the day is for our school to get together for an enjoyable two hours of activities and provide an opportunity for students, teachers and parents to interact cooperatively. Since we believe that all of our children are winners, the need for athletic ability and the competitive ‘urge to win’ will be kept to a minimum. The real reward will be the enjoyment and good feelings of participation.”

Look, if you want to hold a carnival for the kids, hold a carnival. Just be sure not to include any games of chance or (egads!) skill because there’s going to be a kid out there who doesn’t knock over enough milk bottles to win the stuffed bear, and he’s going to have hurt feelings and a lawyer. Yes, by all means, let’s dumb down a kid’s urge to compete and to win and reward him with the enjoyment and good feelings of having participated.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, parents of Archie R. Cole Middle School were informed by the school that it had canceled its annual honors night because of concerns that the event was too “exclusive.”

“Members of the school community have long expressed concerns related to the exclusive nature of Honors Night,” read the email sent by the school.

Rather than be honored at a night devoted entirely to their academic accomplishments, honors students were to be honored during team-based recognition ceremonies, as well as at graduation. The school stated that this course of action would “afford us the opportunity to celebrate the individual and collective success of all students and their efforts, progress and excellence.”

Other “exclusive” events, however, were set to continue as Cole varsity athletes were to be awarded medals and trophies at an after school ceremony.

After parents expressed their displeasure, school officials reversed their course and held honors night after all.

Somewhere along the line, exclusivity, competition, accomplishment and winning have become crimes, and I don’t understand why. Player of the year awards in certain sports are split in half or, in some instances, sliced down three ways. This is not to say that some years there aren’t two or (maybe) three deserving recipients for a particular award, but it has become so routine it’s hard to believe it’s a coincidence.

When selecting all-star teams it’s now important for all teams to be represented by a team member because somebody’s feelings might be hurt if not everybody is included. It was with this same exclusion of exclusivity that

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Mike Burke - Sports
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