Daily Archives: November 4, 2003

The Bracing Idealism of the Young

In the get-what-you-can-any-way-you-can society the Republicans have almost single-handedly created in the past quarter-century by emphasizing winning to the exclusion of all other considerations, moments of idealistic self-sacrifice are either rare and fleeting or else turn out to be a fraud or a trick. But this week we had a real one–a moment of such startling moral clarity that it throws the whole Bush Administration with its series of lies and misdirections into high relief, shaming them forever.

The AP reports (by way of the SF Chronicle) that in Illinois, a high school quarterback has asked that the pass he made which broke a record be removed from the books. Why? Because he found out his coach had made a deal with the opposing team’s coach:

Nate Haasis’ Springfield Southeast High School team let Cahokia High School score a touchdown late in Saturday’s game, which Cahokia won 42-20. In exchange, Cahokia made no effort to keep Haasis from completing a 37-yard pass that gave him a record.In post-game comments Saturday, both coaches acknowledged arranging the deal during a time-out.

The completion gave Haasis 5,006 yards for his career, setting a new record for the Central State Eight Conference and making him one of 12 Illinois high school quarterbacks to pass for more than 5,000 yards.

But to Haasis, the record was less important than how it was achieved, so he wrote a letter to the president of the CS-8 Conference asking that his record-breaking pass be stricken from the books, a request they are likely to honor (as if they had a choice).

I have no particular animus toward the coaches. The touchdown came late in the game when it was clear that Springfield was going to lose anyway, and it must have seemed like a reasonable trade to help a talented kid’s career in a way that wouldn’t really hurt anyone else. The deal itself is not startling, or–truth to tell–even unusual. But Hiasis’ reaction was.

He chose to reject the record that might have been a stepping-stone to a berth on a decent college team–and maybe the scholarship that went with it–rather than lay claim to a phony accomplishment. Hiasis understood what our leaders clearly do not: that reaching a goal by unethical means invalidates the outcome and slimes everybody connected with it, and that–in this case–keeping falsified records is worse than keeping no records at all.

So rather than convince himself that he deserved it (as George W has done in similar circumstances) or accept it as the way things are and take advantage of it (as Cheney and Rumsfeld, for example, have done), Mr Hiasis’ sense of honor forced him to turn it down. If he had a shot at an NFL career, this will clearly put an end to it, not because he no longer holds the record but because that sense of honor will find no home in professional football where winning any way you can is all that matters.

Mr. Hiasis has sacrificed a great deal for his honor, and I honor him for it. Our self-involved, conscienceless leaders could learn a lot from him. So could the rest of us.