Roger Barbee: The chickens will come home

Roger Barbee

We have just learned that newscaster Brian Williams has been suspended without pay for six months. It seems that he has been less than accurate, for whatever reasons, in his reporting during Katrina, and war-related events in the Middle East. By his own actions, he has given good reason for us to question his observations as a journalist. Trust in a journalist is like trust in all relationships — without it there is no true relationship. His chickens certainly came home to roost.

As if news of cheating could not get worse, we are informed by the Little League governing body that the Jackie Robinson West Little League team has been stripped of its 2014 United States National Championship, and some local officials and administrators have been suspended. It seems that adults falsified a boundary map in order to include players who were not eligible for the team.

I remember reading about the team from Chicago this past summer, their success, and how parents of the players from poor areas of Chicago were given funds by professional players so that they could travel to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League World Series. And if cheating was not enough, the lying adults even slurred the name of the man who integrated professional baseball. This past summer as those youngsters played and won, the United States beamed with pride because of what the young athletes from improvised surroundings had accomplished.

Now, we find out that the team Jackie Robinson West was like that great man in name only. Those chickens came home to roost, and it is unfortunate for the youngsters that an adult(s) cheated.

These two situations, while unfortunate and sad for many people, do not directly affect us in the valley. Or do they? After all, Mr. Williams, an internationally known  journalist, is an adult who acted on his own for his reasons, and he made decisions it seems to present himself as more dramatic. He is now paying a price for his actions. While I empathize for his fall, he caused it, and will, I am sure, be fine in the long run. At least he has only himself to blame. His flock arrived. But what dishonest decision did those young ballplayers make?

Take a moment and imagine being 12 or 13 years old and being on a team that wins a national championship by winning games on the field. Imagine being on a team that is in the national news, and getting to travel to the White House to meet the president. Imagine! Then, imagine how you would feel to be told that the adults involved with your team had lied. Imagine finding out that those adults not only lied to Little League officials, but to you and your teammates and your parents. The flock came to your house, but it was not yours. It belongs to the adults who lied on a map.

Children trust the adults in their lives. More than once as a teacher or coach, I became aware that my charges had one main expectation of me. Children are by nature trusting of the adults in their lives. They trust those adults to have the necessary knowledge and skills to lead them through a lesson or a season or a concert or a play.

They trust the adults to be honest with them and the world around them. They trust the adults to make ethical decisions, but when an adult lies or cheats in some fashion, it is usually the child who pays the bigger price. Just like with the Jackie Robinson West team. The young ballplayers thought they had earned through their work a national championship when in fact they were a dishonest team because some adults lied on a map.

The adage, “Chickens come home to roost” is so true. Betrayal at any age hurts, but it is especially painful when you are young. Be honest with the children under your care — honest in thought, word, and deed. They don’t expect you to know everything. They do, however, expect you to be honest with them.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at red-hill@shentel.net.