But everyone does it….

This week I saw something that caused me to sit up and take notice. The incident I am referring to took place in a hotly contested game of rugby between the All Blacks and the Springboks in which the All Blacks were awarded a penalty within fairly easy range. The goalkicker stepped up to take the kick and indicated to the referee that he was going to attempt to kick the ball at goal. What happened next, as the referee turned his back to deal with another player and the touch judges were moving behind the poles, was that the kicker moved the ball about three metres closer to the poles – in front of where the kick should have been taken and making the kick, in some opinions, far easier. The referees and touch judges did not notice this and the kick went over.

While I was not impressed with what I saw, what happened afterwards concerned me greatly. This deliberate breaking of a rule was commented upon by the coach when it became public knowledge what had happened and it was on social media. In his own words: “Is it right? Probably not but they all do it.”

You see, my worry is if we allow the breaking of a small rule and then justify the actions of the player by saying that everyone does it, we set, in my humble opinion, a poor example. This was sport played at the highest level and the behaviour of the players should be an example to all. How many schoolboys are now going to nudge the ball forward because they have seen their hero do it and the coach shrug it off on the grounds that others do the same thing? I don’t think this is right at all. At the very least, the coach should have condemned his player for what was a breach of sporting ethics and the very rules of the game.

One of the many reasons I play golf is because as a game it holds you to a very high level of accountability. Simply put – golfers don’t cheat. If they do they are cast out by their peers. It is easy to cheat on the golf course. You can kick you ball out from under a tree without anyone knowing and you can forget to count fresh air shots when you miss the ball completely. Golf is self-regulating and there is no time or place for cheating in golf. Missing a 6 inch putt counts as a stroke – always. But I digress. The actions of the kicker didn’t affect me as much as the coach’s comment where he effectively condoned an unacceptable action – on the grounds that everyone else did it.

If we lived according to the “but everyone else does it” rule, we may as well forget about traffic lights because “everyone goes through red robots!”. We may as well drive drunk – for the same reason. We may as well plagiarise in our assignments, cheat on tests and do anything we really like – because “everyone else does it”

What utter nonsense! In the first place I am deeply offended to be classified along with “everyone”. In the second – it is simply not true. Everyone does not do it.

We have “integrity” as one of our core values. Integrity is doing what is right, particularly when no-one is watching. We should praise integrity where we can but by its very definition it is hard to do because we may not even be aware of what the person did. By the same token, good sportsmanship should also be praised and bad sportsmanship condemned.

While I am disappointed with the actions of the goalkicker, the comments of the coach upset me more. The kicker did something in the heat of battle and made a decision, that was a bad decision, but it was done in the moment. This, no doubt, is something he regrets now – particularly as the whole rugby world saw what he did. The coach made his comments after the fact and I simply cannot accept what he said.

We all make mistakes. In fact it is our right to make mistakes. Those mistakes can cost us dearly – even if just in reputation. I hope the All Black coach has had time to reflect on what he said and that we too can give him the benefit of the doubt. He is one of the finest coaches in the world and I have no doubt he is a good person. He is loyal to his players that is clear. But he made a mistake when he used that tired, old and unacceptable excuse I hear so often – “everyone does it so why can’t I?”

“The more people rationalize cheating, the more it becomes a culture of dishonesty. And that can become a vicious, downward cycle. Because suddenly, if everyone else is cheating, you feel a need to cheat, too.” Steven Covey

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.” John D MacDonald