One of the more satisfying events in my life occurred at Mason County High School as a Sophomore member of the Marching Royals.
During a band competition in Greenup County, we performed in a division (competing against groups of similar size) which included a rival band, considered very good by any standard.
Our group, under the direction of the incomparable Gary Booher, took the field. And we gave one of the best performances of our season.
Once the routines were over, the awards presentation arrived. And when it came time to announce the winner of our division, joy erupted as the Mason County High School Marching Royals won first place.
The celebration continued off the field and onto the buses home, where word spread like wildfire that the rival band had benched some of their members in order to qualify for our division. I guess their logic was competing against a smaller size group meant an easier path to a first-place trophy.
Sorry, guys. Your detour to a walkaway win took a southward turn to Loserville, population: you.
Amazing how a childhood memory can leave an indelible moral for one to live by. Is it “cheaters never prosper?”
No. It is more of a “it doesn’t always pay to punch below your weight class” situation. When it was all said and done, who do you think felt worse – their Band Director who made the choice to bench two dozen kids (who had all worked hard on the routine) in order to win an easy trophy only to lose, the kids who spent all of that time working on a routine, only to be sidelined (tax dollars well spent), or the band members who went on the field fully expecting to dominate the division, only to fall short against a team that performed as they were trained, and well enough to take the top prize?
Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that still needs to be taught today, tomorrow and apparently every day. The age of the Participation Trophy will hopefully, in the larger scope of life, soon be relegated to the pile of “They Meant Well.”
I love ribbons and accolades as much as the next person. But I want to EARN it. The simple fact of life is that there are winners and losers. A truth that should be taught as soon as possible. As a result, our youth can use the knowledge as inspiration to work, to excel, and to realize that doing one’s best is a trait to be admired.
“But,” you might say, “that will make those who do not win feel inferior.” I say that is just for those who have linear vision. Every child has a gift. If it is not sports, it may be music. If not music, perhaps mathematics. Or art. Whatever. Cookie cutter expectations benefit no one. And the participation ribbons derived from it are only good for one thing – provided they are flushable.
So, remember the lesson of Gary Booher’s Mason County High School Marching Royals Band, and their victory against superior power. After all, the only thing David needed was a slingshot, a rock, and a little faith.