17 November 2010

See What I Mean? A Timely Example of Moral Distortion

     Within hours of writing yesterday's blog posting ("The Juice is Worth the Squeeze"), I learned of a manipulative, legal trick play used by a middle school football team to score a touchdown.  First, watch the Youtube.com playback.  It will be necessary to view it a few times.  First, pay attention to the lower middle of the picture.  The coach is standing next to an official and calls out a foul for five yards against his own team.  The official ignores the call.  Then watch it again and see what happens on the team.  You will see the center hand the ball over his shoulder to the quarterback, who nonchalantly walks into the opposing line as if to step off his own five yard penalty.  The other team is stunned, obviously.  The quarterback then breaks into a sprint to score a touchdown.   Please watch.  See you on the other side.


On first look, this is a hoot!  Imagine, a) this being legal (it is); b) pulling it off; c) actually having the other team believe it.   Now for the question that will bring us all down to earth?  Is this a morally sound value that has created this behavior?    Darn!  Testy priest!

So happens that I have heard two persons speak of this.  One is a psychologist and the other an NPR sports analyst.  Amazingly enough, both have nearly identical "takes" on the event.   If this were attempted by a group of adult, professional players, much of what is observed here would not have happened.  The choices would have been framed with fully formed moral consciences.  The quarterback would have made the decision to act or not on the coach's call.  Guaranteed:  the opposing team would not have been taken off-guard.  The quarterback would have been flattened by either a lineman or the nearest backfield hulk....not pretty.

In terms of moral development and the formation of conscience, young people do not have completely developed capacity for making such choices independently until near adulthood (ca. 20 years of age).  One can see the change in most young people, as they engage their environment more responsibly and make sounder, wiser decisions. 

Both commentators noted above cite that the Driscoll Middle School coach makes this decision to manipulate the playing field and directs his team to engage the play.  This eighth grader is doing what young people do on teams:  exactly what the allegedly responsible adult tells him/her to do.  The other team hears a foul call, sees the official and does what young people are taught to do....obey....in this case stand still and wait. 

My point here is that both the psychologist and NPR sports analyst agree that this is a form of child abuse.  It is teaching children to deceive and, in reality, cheat the other team in irresponsible and unsportsmanlike actions.  What has happened here is that a filter has been put in place for these kids by two seemingly responsible adults through which the actions of moral conscience will have to pass to create ethical behavior.  They have been behaviorially modified by their mentors.

A glass is filled with water and a straw placed in the glass.  Seen from the side, the straw looks fractured as it goes from air to water.  That is not a true picture but a distortion created by density and specific gravity.  It is similar between the conscience and the events of life that become filters. 

This is serious stuff and will create the kinds of dysfunction we currently see in government, business and on Wall Street.  It's part of our mess.

In Christ's Love,

Fr. Fred+

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