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When did celebrating a win become so taboo?

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Wilson County News
June 5, 2013 | 2,286 views | 1 comment

As a sports editor, I read a great number of press releases. And while some are applicable to our readership, many are not. Those that seem relevant are disseminated, while many simply find their way into my Outlook trash folder. But sometimes I get a release that I’m just not quite sure what to do with. Do I put it out as is? Do I trash it? Is there a story in here -- something worth more than just a mention?

One such recent release pertained to the disqualification of the Columbus High School boys 4x100-meter relay team. The release was put out by the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which is the governing body for high school sports in Texas, save a few exceptions. The UIL release offered clarification on its decision to uphold the Columbus disqualification.

The relay team was disqualified after winning the finals at the Class 3A Region IV track and field meet April 27. After anchor Derrick Hayes crossed the finish line first, he made a pointing gesture, either upward, or perhaps forward, and was found to be in violation of meet rules. “Excessive celebration,” it would seem.

Officially, the Columbus High School junior, and therefore his team, was disqualified for “behaving disrespectfully.”

According to the UIL’s official release, “the student athlete raised his hand and gestured forward at the conclusion of the 4x100-meter relay. A meet official approached the student-athlete in an effort to warn him of a possible disqualification should that behavior continue. In the opinion of that official, the student reacted disrespectfully to the warning. Based on his reaction, the student-athlete, and his relay team, were subsequently disqualified.”

OK, so this young man wins what is arguably one of the fastest and most exciting races of the meet, makes a gesture forward, or upward, as some argued he was gesturing toward God in a show of faith, and you immediately approach the kid and start talking about disqualification?

Now I understand the rules say that there will be no excessive celebration, to include “raising of the arms,” but the real question is why? Who honestly considers the raising of arms or the pointing of a finger upward or outward as excessive? If he had turned and pointed to second place, taunting the other runners, I would get it. But that isn’t what happened here, not by any account.

Some will rightfully remind me that the pointing isn’t the part that actually got the team disqualified, but rather what the athlete said to the official upon receiving his warning. And that is true. But, I can’t help but feel as if this whole situation could have, and would have, been avoided if the official had never approached the kid with the threat of disqualification for pointing.

When I read about these stories I just have to take pause. I guess I should file it in the “not everything has to make sense to me” folder, or “life isn’t fair,” but it just sort of nags at me. I can’t help but feel bad for this young man, his relay team, and his entire school.

So while this issue may be the subject of debate for some time, and both sides of the argument clearly have some valid points, I believe the real issue here is the question of why pointing or raising of the arms is grounds for disqualification. Why is it so wrong to celebrate success?

It seems that in today’s society, and especially in our schools, the policy makers are more worried about protecting the feelings of those who don’t win, than they are in actually encouraging victories.

Winning isn’t everything. I understand that. But it is a great feeling, and I can only imagine how Derrick Hayes, his relay team, his coach, his parents, his school, and his entire community must have felt to win the most exciting race of the meet, and then to have the victory taken away. It all seems quite tragic to me.

Your Opinions and Comments

Publius Valerius Publicola  
Rome, Tx.  
June 5, 2013 3:38pm
Easy to understand Robert. In a Socialist environment or a want to be Socialist environment, you must punish excellence and reward mediocrity. Politically correct you understand. We must always think more of those who fail than ... More ›

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