The Cheapening of Achievement

In the world where everyone gets a trophy and “you are special just because” comes another story that cheapens achievement.  It’s a story that actually mocks the central figure.

It’s the story of Alex Wolfe.

Alex is an 8th grader at Saint Albans City School in Vermont and he is blind.

When I first got wind of this story it was translated something like this; “Blind 8th Grader makes big shot in Basketball Game”.

I was very interested because I thought that was great, someone overcame a disability to achieve greatness.  I had no idea how he could, maybe some crazy echo location ability or he might have been a free throw specialist and some freak foul injured another player and he had to go in and win the game on a foul/technical shot.

Then I read the story and saw the tape.  It was a mockery of achievement and Alex was the focal point of people’s pity.

You see, Alex didn’t MAKE the shot…he was allowed to sit under the basket and keep throwing the ball toward a the hoop until it went in and the other team just sat there and watched him until he did.  Alex was GIVEN the shot (or shots) until the ball went in.

You can see the video here:

Whoop dee doo.  Now, many of you may think that I am a hard hearted man but I’m not.  Alex seems like a great kid.  He’s the manager of the team, provides color commentary for games and runs cross country.  And I would be cheering loudly for him IF he could actually play basketball…but he can’t.  He wasn’t IN the game when he made that shot.  The game stopped even though the clock kept ticking just so he could be given a basket.

What does that teach this kid?  That pity is better than personal achievement?  That if you can’t do for yourself someone is just going to HAND YOU what you want, even if you don’t deserve it?  Sure, Alex is happy that he got a chance to make the shot, but years from now I feel he will look back on this memory and feel nothing.  He won nothing, he achieved nothing…literally ANYONE with 1 working arm could have done what he did.  No defense and infinite shots, anyone would eventually get the ball in.

And it’s not Alex’s fault.  It’s his coach’s.  Trying to be magnanimous (or whatever he was trying to do) not only mocked Alex’s disability but also scarred the boy in ways that he may never fully comprehend.  You see, Alex’s disability was highlighted because the other team treated him differently.  They LET him take the shot.  He wasn’t an opposing player, he was a blind person whom they pitied and didn’t treat him like an equal.  One day, Alex will realize this and I hope he can learn something positive from it.

Tell me Alex has won the 100m dash unassisted. Tell me he has trained his body while living in the dark but didn’t let that deter him from beating able bodied kids on the field of competition.  Hell, you don’t even have to tell me he won for it is better to compete truly and lose while doing your best than run a race where everyone stands still and let you win.

Tell me the story of Anthony Robles, who despite being born with only 1 leg, won the NCAA Wrestling Championship at 125lbs.

At the age of 3 Robles tossed away his prosthetic leg and started doing things his own way.

Almost 2 decades later he earned the title BEST in the land and no one gave it to him.  He EARNED it.

Anthony Robles wouldn’t want to win a race where his competitors just stood still.  Nor should Alex Wolfe…nor should any of us.  For what is the point of winning if it comes cheaply and means nothing?

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