Our View: An upraised finger

Posted: May 6, 2013

Every week, it seems, brings another affront to simple common sense — i.e., discrimination in a positive sense — courtesy of the nation’s “zero tolerance” police. As long as these incidents keep arising, we’ll keep reporting on ’em. Hopefully, other news outlets will do the same.

This week’s whopper comes, oddly enough, from the Lone Star State — which, given its conservative reputation, should know better. The anchorman on a Texas high-school 4x100 relay team crossed the finish line first at a sub-state track meet last week and, jubilant in victory, pointed to the heavens in appreciation of a convincing seven-yard triumph. The kid, purely and simply, was praising God.

But a meet official did not see the momentary gesture that way and promptly disqualified the winners, thereby denying them a chance to compete at the state level. The meet referee concurred in this decision. And, rather than rush to the defense of kids from his district, the divisional school superintendent said, well, the youngster did “violate the context” of national federation Rule 4-6-1, which forbids excessive celebration.

Seeking to justify the action of the officials, the state’s athletic governing body, the University Interscholastic League, declared that no animosity toward religion prompted the disqualification. Instead, it said the youngster “behaved disrespectfully toward meet officials.” In what possible way? By not giving them credit for his team’s success?

Don’t get us wrong; we don’t condone either the jawboning and taunting that can disrupt interscholastic competition, or the antics — dancing, writhing, gesticulating — that can take place in the end zone, at home plate, or at the finish line. That is, we acknowledge the reason for “Rule 4-6-1,” which prohibits “any flagrant behavior” and “unsportsmanlike conduct . . . that is unethical or dishonorable.”

We simply ask that officials not use such rules as substitutes for wholesome discrimination. We want our athletes to be respectful; we don’t want them turned into automatons or their games transformed into exercises devoid of spontaneity and joy. Or, for that matter, simple appreciation.

As we see it, the father of the “offending” athlete put it in proper perspective. “It was a reaction,” he said. “I mean, you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed . . . What does that tell them about the rest of their lives? You’re going to do what’s right, work extra hard, and have it ripped away from you?”

Granted, life can be unfair, but it needn’t be unjust — particularly when a gross error in judgment is correctable. And this one most definitely is.