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  • Reverend James Squire

The Eagles Taught a Most Important Lesson

We are all disappointed by the Eagles' loss, some more so than others. The media has focused on the controversy of the Eagles’ defensive player, James Bradberry, who grabbed the shirt of an intended receiver in the final moments of the game. This has been the single most controversial call for referees throughout the NFL season for all teams and all officials.

But something important needs to be noted and shouted from the roof tops. It is Sirianni’s and Bradberry’s response to the call. Both said that it was the right call. They did not pout or scream that it was unfair. It’s interesting to note that where ethics seemed to be abandoned in the political life of Washington, we find renewed hope, of all places, in the NFL. I know that there will be high expectations for the Eagles next season. They are also modeling how to be good sportsmen in loss and a team that honors doing the hard right instead of the easy wrong. Can you imagine how important this gesture is to all the young people who were watching the Super Bowl. However, Trump would say they are suckers!

Sirianni and Bradberry are on their way to the Ethics Sports Hall of Fame. They will be next to Bobby Jones and his story of doing the hard right and not the easy wrong.

Bobby Jones lost the 1925 U.S. Open in a grueling 36 holes playoff, after calling a one stroke penalty on himself over the protests of rules officials. In one of the final holes, one of his balls lay slightly in the rough. He noticed that his ball moved as his iron grazed the grass which is an automatic penalty. Officials hadn’t seen it as well as his caddy and those in the gallery. Jones insisted the ball moved so he charged himself a one stroke penalty. This one stroke cost him the win and a lot of money of the most important tournament in the that United States that year.

I read a book, Commander in Cheat, by Rick Reilly, a member of the Sportswriters Hall of Fame. His book was about how Trump cheats at golf. He said to Reilly, “I cheat on my wife. I cheat on my taxes. Why wouldn’t I cheat while playing golf?” He referred to Trump’s cheating as the “Trump Bump.” He has a golf cart that is faster than others so when he arrives at the next hole, he kicks the other balls away and places his closer. He is the course champion at all of his courses because when they first open, he golfs with Melania and wins and declares himself the course champion. He is the course champion at 18 courses with this approach. He said his dad was born in Germany when he was born in Queens. He indicated to Reilly that he had a MacDonald’s gold card to eat free at MacDonalds at any place in the world. He indicated that there are only other two others who have one, Michael Jordan and Mother Teresa. The book is hilarious until you realize as President, he is the most powerful person in the world.

There is another ethical lesson that we can learn from the responses of Sirianni and Bradberry.

When looking at any ethical situation, you have to consider the whole context which is referred to as the gestalt. Was it just that one grabbing of a receiver’s shirt that cost the Eagles the game? No! What about the missed passes thrown that were catchable? What about the tackling of Mahones that were missed? We always blame the field goal kicker who misses that kick in the final seconds for costing the team the game. We forget about everything before that kick is done. Ethical decisions are always about context as a driving factor. In ethics class we start with the lifeboat example where someone is knocked overboard in shark infested water? If it was your father, would you go into the water and risk your life to save him? Of course, you would! Students always try to make the decision easier by broadening the context. How about if there is an oar that would reach him to make the decision easier? What if that person thrown overboard was Vladimir Putin? Would you put your safety aside and go in and save him? Real estate may be about location, location, location. Ethics is about context, context, context!

On the biggest football stage as context, Sirianni and Bradberry defended the referees’ decision. If I am a young kid and didn’t have a father or male friend bad mouthing the call, as a kid that could make an impression stronger than we would think. They would remember that and may act accordingly in their own lives. It usually starts with words such as, “Remember when…”

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