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When it comes to cheating in sports, the kids learned from the pros

Cheating and lying is no longer just for big sports guys, as Little League scandal proves, Bill Dwyre writes

It is time for us, as a nation of die-hard sports fans, to take a moment and reflect with pride upon what we have achieved.

We now have reached, across the board, consistency of cheating on all levels.

Half-truths, corner-cutting and getting an edge through outright lying used to be an art form reserved for the big guys, those pros who are paid and those pros in college who aren't. No longer. It has now reached the 9- to 12-year-olds.

Go ahead, everybody. Puff out those chests.

Steroids, sneak-filming, under-inflated footballs, and no-class, no-term-paper straight A's are the American way in sports. Who needs apple pie? We have A-Rod, the Patriots and North Carolina.

Want that little extra effort? Put a bounty on the head of the opposing quarterback and call your team the Saints?

In the end, all the public negatives don't matter. Pay the fine, make the televised apology and go back to collecting your wins and big paychecks.

At the college level, with less money to work with, we use other means to get what we want. For example, in the recruiting process, we stress educational values, character building and team values. Also, honesty.

But then, if we, the recruiter, have a chance to get bigger money with a job in the pros, we can still keep the player on track by just lying to him. Sign the letter of intent, kid, and I'll be on my way. You'll still look good in your Bruins blue and I might drop you a postcard from Falcons training camp.

We are just good at these things. We shouldn't even try to soft pedal it. It cannot be denied. When it comes to sports, we wave the red, white and blue and wink twice.

The odds of one of the current crop of dazzling new basketball players at Kentucky actually finishing school are the same as an asteroid hitting a cow in a field outside Ames, Iowa. We know that. We know they are called student-athletes. We wink twice.

Our pursuit of sports lying and cheating is nothing new, even in Little League.

Some might recall what Little League baseball once was. You'd get together with a bunch of friends from your school or your neighborhood, decide you want to have a team, ride your bikes down to the local drug store and ask them to sponsor you. Then, you'd wear with pride your Smitty's Pharmacy T-shirt in games against Chuck's Donut Shop.

Now, they put this stuff on ESPN.

We've come a long way, baby. Why waste our children's time being children when they can be used to enhance ratings and profits for the people in Bristol, Conn.?

What joy it must have been for those who see sports as the Holy Grail of achievement in the good 'ole USA to hear the Little League team that made it all the way to last year's Little League World Series championship game cheated to get to that game.

Way to go, Illinois' Jackie Robinson West. The rules say you have to have a team from a defined area, that you can't go looking for 12-year-old hired guns in other neighborhoods.

But who cares about rules? It is getting an edge that matters, just like the big guys in the pros and college. We can thank our lucky stars we have them to set examples for us.

Jackie Robinson West was our national champ. Now, they have taken that title away in a scandal. Little League can be proud. It has now reached the big time in American sports. Without a scandal to call your own, you are nothing.

We shouldn't overlook another element of how we've gotten to where we are. We also excel in the category of hypocrisy.

In the aftermath of the Little League scandal, one of the main broadcasters on its presentation, Karl Ravech of ESPN, was interviewed about how disturbed he was over this entire thing and how this was one of the events he most liked doing.

"There is such a purity to it," Ravech said.

Purity, indeed, just like the estimated $7.5 million a year for the next six years that Ravech's company, ESPN, reportedly pays Little League for the rights to broadcast the baseball feats of 9- to 12-year-olds.

Think of it as purity of profit. Smitty's Pharmacy and Chuck's Donut Shop really missed out.

Yes, there are occasional efforts to slow or stop the lying and cheating and the never-ending pursuit of greed. In this country, that is often the task of the NCAA, which is designed to be an arbiter of all that is fair for its colleges .

The star of last year's Little League tournament was a Philadelphia player named Mo'ne Davis, who pitched and hit wonderfully and is a girl. Media gushed and ESPN nearly choked on its own drool.

Her team didn't win, but she became such a big star that she was asked to make a commercial for Chevrolet. It ran during the World Series. The NCAA, excelling in inconsistency of rules and punishment, said Davis would not lose her future college eligibility over doing the commercial and being paid handsomely. But they warned her about free T-shirts.

There you have it. We should be so proud.

In our country of win-at-all-costs and cheat-because-the-other-guy-will, we have allowed our national sports mission statement to seep down to the kids.

Is this a great country, or what?

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

Twitter: @DwyreLATimes

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