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Opinion

Role models marred by lies, cheating, scandals

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April 2, 2009

Even American Idols cheat. I read recently that several “Idol” stars, while performing en masse on a special episode, sang over their own pre-recorded vocal tracks on prime time. Under the impression that “American Idol” was a show intended to discover musical talent, I gave an ironic chuckle as I read the article. What a shame, that even the winners need some secret vocal help. But of course I shouldn’t expect much more, in fact, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

American Idols may cheat a little with some harmless lip-synching, but it’s a trick they learned somewhere. And it turns out you don’t have to look very far to learn where. It’s a fact that’s becoming harder and harder to deny: people want to become better, faster, stronger, more popular, more talented and more famous, and they’re willing to throw credibility and legitimacy in the toilet to get there. Even among those who have accomplished much, cutting corners is apparently an acceptable practice. We’re learning how to cheat from the top. Those who are supposed to be the most competent, capable people around, political leaders, businessmen, athletes, could be inspirational in their roles. But instead a growing number of them lie and cheat to get where they’re going.

Usually it’s just about money. We’ve heard nothing but scandalous news reports coming out of the banking and financial industries lately, dispensing multimillion-dollar bonuses right after The Bailout is a classic example of cheating. I won’t pretend to understand the political and fiscal complexities of exactly why all that happened, but from what I’ve read along with everyone else, it certainly doesn’t sound fair.

Cheating is of course in sports too. I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life, but now I’m questioning myself. I love the sport, but does there come a point when enough is enough? Now even New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, beloved baseball hero and media darling, has admitted to using steroids. And unrivaled pitcher Roger Clemens, the record-holding winner of seven Cy Young awards, has faced a lot of public scrutiny for his anabolic steroid use. The list goes on Bonds, Canseco, Pettitte, GiambiÑand baseball isn’t the only sport with that kind of list. Has this gone far enough? Has the athletic competition of the sport lost its professional credibility? Steroid use certainly can’t help.

We’re learning from our professional athletes, our American Idols, and our senators, politicians, CEOs and bank executives that it’s okay to defraud and deceive in the pursuit of money or success. And television provides plenty of reminders, it asks us every day to cut corners by buying tonics, potions and pills to make our penises larger, our waists skinnier and our biceps even stronger and more glistening, now for less effort! It doesn’t matter whether you’re an overpaid CEO with unbalanced books or an athlete bent over a bench press taking a needle in the ass-cheek, the rules of competition are there for a reason.
Perhaps abundance and happiness do not come with an unfair multimillion-dollar executive bonus or another undeserved sports record.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.