Accusations cannot spoil a true victor’s win

By Kay Braddock

        Lessons can be learned in almost every setting. 

It’s a simple truth - that yet again - bore to life, in another unusual circumstance. 
This was seen Sunday evening as coyote hunters, assembled in 26 teams, gathered for the final count of the Prairie County Sportsman’s Association’s weekend coyote calling contest. Each team tallied their kills and compared their numbers with opposing teams. 
Did the numbers match up? Did other teams use unfair practices to attain their kills? Were rules followed?
With a $1,000 pot for the team who collected the most coyote hides, and second and third place cash prizes, it’s understandable why opposing teams are eyed suspiciously and kills are examined closely.
Like one person explained, it’s not much fun to spend a weekend trudging through the snow and chilly conditions, following the rules and doing things the right way, only to have a cheating team come away with a top prize.
This uncertainty may explain the somber faces of the coyote hunters gathered together as they watch winning teams accept their prizes. (Sheer exhaustion from the weekend’s hunt, no doubt, is also a contributing factor.)
When one team accused another team of cheating at this year’s 10th annual coyote hunt, it brought to mind a life lesson.
 The accusation was subsequently proven unsubstantiated after judge Dan Thomason checked into the allegation. Any more details to the rift won’t be found here in the black print of the Tribune pages - heaven’s no! If you want to know more – you’ll need to visit your local coffee klatches. The town’s been abuzz about the details since the incident occurred three days ago.
But the real lesson here isn’t about who cheated or who didn’t, neither is it about when it’s appropriate to make accusations of the like. 
The real lesson is this, “Winners never cheat, and cheaters never win.”
It’s a simple phrase, maybe a little trite, but in my way of thinking, it’s true. 
It was often repeated by our high school history teacher as he handed out exams - likely his way of thwarting any attempts at cheating. The phrase undoubtedly left an indelible mark on more than one student. And it’s one that comes to mind when accusations of unfair practices are thrown about.
Of course, people can point to those in this world, who by all appearances, are winning just fine in the game of life, and by all accounts have made a lifetime out of cheating practices and cheating ways.
But to my way of thinking, it’s never really winning if you had to cheat to get there. 
There’s nothing like attaining a goal, knowing that it’s been done fair and square, whether it’s through hard work, sheer determination or just plain God-given talent and creativity. The feeling is undeniably delicious. It bears exuberant joy. It’s fulfilling and it’s what makes winning fun.
Everyone has cheated at some point - whether it was on an elementary spelling test, a high school science exam or on an IRS tax return. We all know what it feels like to cheat and although the pain of getting caught cheating was less than tolerable at the time, we were far better served if we did get caught.
But whether found out or not, to cheat is to lose out. It’s a loss of a true accomplishment. And it’s a loss of a confidence-building achievement. And worst of all, when a lifetime of cheating ways is practiced, a loss of conscience is a common outcome.
You’re far better served to accept a loss than to win by cheating. 
It’s better to experience a lifetime of failed attempts, than to end your days knowing what you possess was never really earned. Better to live a quiet life filled with determined yet undistinguished steps than to a live a life shadowed by deceitful paths.
And when a goal is sincerely achieved, no accusation can take away the victor’s win. 

Published Jan. 13, 2010

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