I was saddened to learn last week that the National Cheerleading Championship team, Wichita State University, was disqualified, thereby losing its title as "National Champion." It was discovered that they cheated by using a cheerleader who was not enrolled in the University. It upset me not because I follow cheerleading competitions — I didn't even know there was a national champion. No, it bothered me because it was one more example of the lengths people will go to so they may be declared "No. 1" or "the best."
I'm tired of hearing about politicians, business leaders, writers, and students who cheat in their pursuit of winning or being declared "the best" at something. And now cheerleaders are cheating? What's next? Are infants going to fake burping just to get all the praise?
I'm not against ambition. I think it's a good thing for all of us to try to be the best person we can be. But that's different from having a need to be better than everyone else.
Some people don't care what they're the best at as long as they're the best at something. This explains many of the entries in the "Guinness Record" book like the "Most Live Rattlesnakes Held In The Mouth," "The World's Longest Fingernails," and "The Fastest Sandwich Made By Feet."
Some people also have to surround themselves with "the best" things. You'll hear them say their kids go to "the best school," they live in "the best house" in "the best neighborhood." We hear people claim they have "the best doctor." I don't remember there being a "Medical Olympics" in which doctors compete by performing surgeries, delivering babies, and convincingly telling worried patients, "I had the same thing, it's nothing, and it'll go away." So, how do they know that theirs is the best doctor?
Telling themselves that they have the best doctor, the best lawyer, the best car, the best lawn, the best kids, the best spouse, and the best sunscreen obviously makes some people feel better and more secure. But it's sad that this need exists.
Many of us are taught at a very young age that "good isn't good enough." The implication is that everyone should try to be No. 1. Of course, it's impossible for everybody to be No. 1, but sometimes parents, teachers, and coaches don't tell kids this.
So, what happens when kids or adults realize that they just might not be the best at something? Too often, they feel like failures, or they cheat — or both.
People seem to have forgotten that it's more important to do your best than to be the best.
Should we have less admiration for the kid who works really hard and gets all B's and C's than for the kid who doesn't have to work at all and gets all A's? I don't think so.
It's the process that should be celebrated and enjoyed at least as much as the result.
Phrases like "winning is everything" and "keep your eye on the prize" miss the point about the joys of pursuit and competition. I'll bet when those cheerleaders first started jumping and tumbling and holding each other in the air with one hand it was pure fun and they weren't focused on being No. 1.
Often champion athletes will talk about their winning season. Their struggles, their wins, their losses, their grueling practices, and the camaraderie that developed among the teammates are as important to them as that trophy they got at the end of the season. Those lessons they learned all season long will last a lifetime. That trophy will be tarnished by next year.
I love to write. If I happen to write something good and other people like it, or maybe even get some acclaim for it, well, that's the cherry on top of the sundae. But the sundae tastes awfully good even without the cherry.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them No. 1 on the best-seller lists.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2007 CBS. All rights reserved.