- - Thursday, April 29, 2021

I am not an expert on Congress, but as an athlete I do know a lot about rules, accountability and consequences.

Athletes know when they break a rule, they should be called on it (accountability), and they should receive a penalty (consequences). Correct calls do not always happen in sports because humans are involved, but overall, accountability and consequences are expected by coaches, players and fans. This is the core of sports. Without it, fairness would be impossible, and there would be total mayhem on the playing field.

Sport deals with the same problems as our overall society, and is by no means perfect. But in regards to law and order (accountability and consequences), Congress could learn a lot from sports.

In the absence of law and order, we have struggled with racial issues, the storming of our Capitol Building, the impeachment of our former president and misconceptions and untruths running rampant. As if that is not enough, domestic terrorism has increased, and there are concerns that some of our legislators pose a threat to others and to our country. 

Looking at law and order from an athlete’s perspective, “Law” means a set of rules that govern behavior. “Order” can have many definitions, but in this article, it refers to the enforcement of rules and the allotment of consequences for bad behavior to prevent turmoil. Order, or accountability and consequences, gives everyone a fair opportunity to play — and live — in a peaceful and safe environment.

In sports, rules are set by governing bodies, such as the NCAA for college sports, the AAU for amateur sports and the PGA for professional golf.

In our society, laws (rules) are set by Congress, states and local governments. Laws are pretty straight forward, Most people understand them, and either agree or disagree with them. It is not paying attention to accountability and consequences that causes serious problems. 

Enforcement of the rules (consequences) is central to the functioning and success of sports — and to our society. Without enforcement, the bullies, the strongest individuals and the lawless would rule the game — and our everyday lives.

Can you imagine a sporting event without rules or penalties? What if there were no consequences when a basketball player was fouled? Or what if a football player tried to take the head off the opposing quarterback, and play was allowed to continue as if nothing had happened?

Normally, Congress makes laws, but sometimes they must judge lawbreakers. Then, they become the officials on the field who must make difficult, accurate and impartial calls or the game will lose all meaning. It has not escaped the attention of most Americans that many legislators have failed miserably in taking accountability and consequences seriously. Even worse, most are totally biased in their calls.

Today, if a grievous act is committed, some say, “Let’s just move on.” Or, even worse, some choose to do what is of political value, rather than what is right and necessary to keep our citizens safe and our way of life intact. Fortunately, there are a few legislators with the conscience and courage to call the game impartially. Unbelievably, they are the ones being penalized.

Individuals who do not believe in accountability and consequences should not complain if their team loses because an official does not make a crucial call. Nor, should they boo or yell when a player on their favorite team is fouled while the officials look the other way.

From an athlete’s point of view, anyone who doesn’t believe in accountability and consequences has no right to complain — and frankly, deserves to lose.

• Patsy Neal was a 3-time AAU All-American, played in the Pan-American Games and the World Basketball Tournament, and is an inductee in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

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