Undeserved Victories

Two stories in the news over the last 48 hours, which have a common theme. The Undeserved Victory.

First is Jared Kushner, First Son-in-Law-Elect and speculation that he might not have deserved his admission to Harvard. As you’ll read here, and here, it seems that Mr. Kushner’s grades and test scores were below the usual threshold for admission to that small school in Boston. This news leaves me just shocked, because I’m certain that each and every freshman before him met those standards and a school like Harvard would never, ever admit someone who didn’t meet their standards. Ahem. Right. This story should have fallen into the category of “dog bites man” and never made the “news,” but the public, never tires of a story of privilege and how they’ve been wronged by the rich and influential, even if that person is a Trump (by marriage). Since it reinforces the existing narrative, it gets airplay and column inches. An undeserved victory was achieved by Mr. Kushner. No doubt, the one of many.

Then we have the story of the Illinois state high school playoff game between Fenwick and Plainfield North. As you’ll read here, had the rules been correctly applied, Fenwick would have won the semifinal game and advanced to the final to play East St. Louis High. But it didn’t happen that way. PNHS was the beneficiary of the referee’s mistaken idea that the circumstances at the end of the period should result in an untimed down. There’s no such rule, but they gave PNHS such a play, and with it, they kicked the game-tying field goal, sending the game into overtime, which they eventually won. An undeserved victory.

In the week since this happened, there’s been much discussion here locally and later across sports-talk radio about how to resolve the situation. Fenwick has gone to court after the State’s high school sports ruling body, the IHSA said that there’s no provision for protest or reversal. It’s been suggested that Plainfield North simply admit that they unduly benefited and let Fenwick play in the championship game.

Without getting into the ethics of sports and whether a player in a game with outside officials has an obligation to correct an officials mistake (e.g., no Mr. Umpire, I was tagged before I got to the base and you missed it; No Ms. Referee, I last touched the basketball before it went out-of-bounds so it’s not our ball as you say), I have trouble with what’s been said and done. That Fenwick elected to take the case to a court of law suggests that a judicial remedy is the appropriate venue for a sports dispute. It’s high school football, for goodness sake, not a case involving the life or property of a citizen, which is what the court system is already overloaded handling. The law has long-ago established that clubs and organizations can establish their own rules and act accordingly and that the courts have no interest in injecting themselves into those disputes (see PGA Tour vs. Casey Martin, for example). Nevertheless, off goes the Fenwick high school administration, to get what glory there is to be had and right a most egregious wrong.

To suggest that PNHS relinquish its good fortune is to expect Jared Kushner to tell Harvard, “thanks, but no thanks.” Are we to assume that no child at Fenwick has ever received admission to a college based on a family connection or a sizable donation? Would Fenwick have suggested that such a child demur and reject the admission? Of course not. That’s not the way the world works.

Rightly or wrongly, our society is not a perfect meritocracy. LinkedIn exists for a reason; to help connect people to give them an advantage when seeking a job. This is how it is. It’s too bad that the officials screwed this up. They should lose their jobs over this–or be forced into some remedial rules education classes. It likely won’t be the last time these kids will be jobbed by The Man. The Plainfield North kids know they got away with something. As Luke said, “to whom much is given, much is required.” Let’s hope they take their good fortune and learn an appropriate lesson from it (especially when they inevitably end up on the receiving end).

One thing of which we are certain: Jared Kushner’s undeserved winning streak is just starting.

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