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Of Greed and Good Sportsmanship

Sports_balls_2Tonight I had the opportunity to attend my very first ever on-post sports picnic.  In lieu of having individual team or league parties, the post holds one big event at the end of the year.  I was looking forward to the usual picnic fare and the opportunity to enjoy a bit of friendship before we move next week.  What ensued was far from what I expected.

More after the jump...

From the moment we arrived,the only thing that really interested my kids was the shockingly large andexpensive array of door prizes that was prominently displayed behindmakeshift fencing.  While we waited in line to check in, my childrenwere eyeballing the goods with amazement.  I tried to remind them thatwe'd come for dinner and play, and they were convinced for a while.We managed to get some foodinto everyone and then, just when the kids were really settling intothe playground, the drawings began.  There was fanfare about the grantthat had been won to provide these prizes and how wonderful it was thatthey could give away so many things, even more than last year.

As the first few numbers were drawn, I was still slightly in awe of thevolume of stuff.  As the prize winning continued, my feelings began tochange.  The first winner selected the flat-screen, high def televisionas their prize.  The next dozen winners scored small stereo systems,bikes and MP3 players.  One of my kids was in that first bunch and Isaw a side of myself that I don't like, as the family yelled across thefencing to "pick the stereo."   Somewhere during the electronics spree,the tone began to change.  Kids were less happy for each other, theywere getting upset that they hadn't won.  The rain began to fall, andthe throng around the caller remained intent.  Kids were getting upsetas parents strongly suggested that they choose the bicycles over thesoccer balls.  Parents clutched soggy tickets as they huddled under tents, eying the remaining basketballs and horseshoe sets.

By the time the last number was drawn, much of the crowd was soaked,and the remaining non-winners were dispirited.  One parent commentedabout how unhappy his son was going to be, and I jokingly said thathe'd have to buy him a new soccer ball since he didn't win.Unfortunately, I might have been right.  I'm sure if we hadn't fledfrom the wet weather, I would have seen tears somewhere.

As I watched the event unfold, I came to the conclusion that I didn'treally like it at all.  All year, I've praised the post youth sportsprogram for its emphasis on fun and fair play.  This culminating eventseemed to undo all the efforts of the year by turning youth sports intoan exercise in chance and greed.  It seems to me that it would havebeen better to send every kid home with a ball (or three) than to spendthousands of dollars on prizes for only a portion of the players.

I have a lot of questions, and maybe y'all have some answers.  I wonder if this is an unusual thing here at our post, or if it is common on military bases.  I must admit, I've never seen anything like it in the civilian world.  But living on post this year, I have seen big gifts given away at all kinds of events:  bike rodeos, Easter brunches, and Spouses' Club Luncheons.  While I enjoy a good door prize as much as the next girl, the sheer abundance of stuff given away this year has amazed me.  When I think of all the needs of our troops and their families, it seems inappropriate to give away so many indulgences.

So, what do you think?

(In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that my family did win more than one prize.  I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't figure out how to suddenly institute a rule that our family could only win one prize, and I'm not sure if that is what I wanted to do anyway.  I'm going to have to think about that one and come up with a plan for future events.  Also, my behavior was not exactly commendable through this event. In fact, I reduced one daughter to tears as I tried to direct her prize choice.  I'm not proud of it, but it happened.)

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