Character and Success

Published: May 19, 2010

By Jim Lichtman
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There’s a right way to handle misconduct and… there’s the other way.

Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor was arrested on charges of rape and soliciting prostitution involving a 16-year-old girl.  One of the NFL’s greatest defensive players, Taylor denied the charges and was released after posting a $75,000 bond.

This isn’t the first time Taylor’s been in trouble.  His thirteen-year career with the Giants has been marred by alcohol and drug abuse as well as charges of leaving the scene of an accident last November. In spite of his record off the field, Taylor was inducted into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame in 1999 in celebration of his on field performance.

However, based on this recent incident, USA Today asked readers:  “Should it be possible to vote an athlete out of the Hall of Fame?” The results were interesting.

While 40% of more than 12,000 said that the Hall of Fame “is all about on-field accomplishments,” almost an equal number (38%) believe that the “HOF is a privilege not a right, [while] 15% [said yes] but it should be a difficult process.” Only 7% said “we should not be judge and jury.”

Similarly, when Texas linebacker Brian Cushing violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances this year, 73% of 786 readers said that the star rookie “should be stripped of accolades” including “his 2009 defensive rookie of the year award.”

Among the comments readers offered: “I don’t respect (guys) that CHEAT!; Give the defensive rookie of the year to [Buffalo Bill’s] Jairus Byrd…he did it the RIGHT way!”; Sports figures are role models and that SHOULD require character.”

“Here’s the problem,” one reader points out. “Our society places athletes, politicians, actors, etc. on pedestals and completely overlooks the fact that they are just as human as we are with all of the same faults and weaknesses…

“If [Lawrence Taylor] did a crime, let him serve his time and get on with his life. As for removing him from the HOF, this incident has nothing, I repeat nothing to do with what got him in the HOF. That’s why I look at all the sports HOF selections and wonder [are] the selections based on accomplishments, the selectors picking by popularity or using public opinion / popularity? Maybe that’s why so many great players are not in their respective HOFs.”

Then there’s Japanese golfer Yuko Mitsuka who took the extraordinary step of banning herself from “11 women’s tournaments,” Reuters News Service reported, “after being fined for storming off the course over a two-stroke penalty… Mitsuka was fined a record 2 million yen ($21,590) but voluntarily withdrew from eight domestic and three overseas events as a sign of contrition.”

“This is the biggest fine in Japanese LPGA history and reflects the seriousness of what took place,” the tour’s Hideaki Otani told Reuters on Wednesday. “The player offered to withdraw from those tournaments and the tour accepted that as the right punishment.”

Look, all of us are going to make mistakes. It’s part of being human. But how we respond to those mistakes ultimately determines who we become.

“Character,” Helen Keller once said, “cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”


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