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First Tee Scholar reflects on integrity of 1972 Munich Olympic Games

By NATHAN HOLLIDAY
Contributing Writer

Leading with integrity is one of the greatest challenges in life. Integrity is one of the nine core values of the First Tee program. “The First Tee program is an international youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people” (http://www.thefirsttee.org/). The program defines integrity as “strict adherence to a standard of value or conduct; personal honesty and independence.” As a First Tee Scholar at Georgetown College, I had the unique opportunity to hear firsthand from the 1972 United States men’s basketball team at a reunion marking the 40th anniversary of the Olympics. Their personal stories surrounding the 1972 Olympic gold-medal game continue to positively impact me as I seek to live a life of integrity.

On the evening of Sept. 9, 1972, the United States basketball team battled Russia in the gold-medal championship game. Russia was awarded the gold medal; however, film shows that the United States was robbed of the gold medal not once or twice but three times. Even though the team was not awarded the gold medal, they demonstrated remarkable integrity and character through their decision to not accept the silver medal. I can only imagine the team wrestling that night and how this decision would be received by their supporters and viewers in the United States. Over the years, players have received numerous requests to accept the silver medal. To this day, the team has stood firm in its unified decision to not accept anything but gold, which would take the Olympic Committee overturning its original decision. Captain Kenny Davis has gone as far as stating in his will that his children and grandchildren cannot accept the silver medal on his behalf. The members of the team shared on numerous occasions at the reunion that they were able to leave the arena with their heads held high even though they left with no medals around their necks.

The 1972 Olympians were presented with two choices, to either sulk over their circumstance or continue to live their lives with pride and a sense of accomplishment. It was evident to me that they chose the latter. As a First Tee Scholar, my impression from what was shared during the Olympic Reunion was that even though the Olympians had left Munich 40 years earlier with no gold medal, it was clear in their hearts that they were the gold medal winners. This experience was a powerful reminder to me that in life, even when one’s integrity resembles the purity of gold, one may walk away with the silver.