Monday, August 29, 2011

Rules for Running the Race

By Brenda Black

As with any timed event, it matters not nearly as much how you start, but where you finish. But the opposite is true in the case of reigning Olympic and world champion, and world-record-holder Usain Bolt's latest race. The “one and done” false start rule just ruled fleet-footed Bolt disqualified. The very notion of dismissing a runner capable of smoking the 100 meter in 9.58 seconds leaves rule-makers running for solutions and questioning the necessity for such an edict.

Some social scientists contend that rule evasion can serve as a useful tool to promote more efficient policies or alternatives. As track and field judges weigh the prospects of new policies concerning revered runners, they may respond in one of three ways: either effectively ignore the rule infraction, enforce it to a greater extent or revise it.

One jump of the gun and you're done does seem a bit harsh. But there's a lesson to be learned at the cost of Bolt's unbridled bolt. Whoa! Better to be disciplined than to be eliminated. All too well, he has learned that the price can be shamefully high when rules get broken.

But let's not forget “some rules are meant to be broken.” Take for instance a law in Idaho that says it is illegal for a man to give his sweetheart a box of candy weighing more than 50 pounds. Obviously that one needs amending! Some mandates are plain silly. Other sanctions make perfect sense . There's the law in Missouri that says it is illegal to drive with an uncaged bear! I'm thinking that one needs to stay on the books since bruin populations are on the rise in the Show Me State. Sure, it may be fine to see a bear in the cab of a pickup in the Ozark Mountains, but probably not a great thing in the backseat of a cab in downtown Kansas City.

A contemporary of Mark Twain, Charles Dudley Warner, finds the balance between total, blind adherence verses testing the waters: “We are half ruined by conformity; but we should be wholly ruined without it.” In other words: Some rules are absolutely necessary. The truth is “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7) When reasonable rules are followed, they are for our good to prevent false starts and failed finishes.

Foolish thoughts convince would-be winners that fudging just a little won't cause fallout.
And deceiving oneself with the notion that no one is looking only blinds the one competing. The best qualifying start in life begins in the Word of God where rules are specific and filled with purpose and broken ones bear consequence. There we are told that “...if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)

Even if a runner clears the starting blocks fairly, there are some things that can still keep him from officially finishing the race. A stumble? No. A runner can get back up and rejoin the race. A hurdle not cleared? No. Downed hurdles just slow him down, but don't disqualify a runner. Cheating and quitting are, however, surefire precursors for a failed finish. Those are personal choices of which you can blame no other contender, no other circumstances. The consequences for breaking the rules lie squarely on the shoulders of the one who committed the infraction.

Whether the International Association of Athletics Federation sees clear to ignore, enforce or alter the “one and done” rule, may change the face of future race results for high profile runners. Still, it won't repeat races already run. The consequences for those are in the record books.

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