One of my favorite TV commercials ever was for Kia when a father and son are leaving a flag football game, and the father asks to look at the son’s trophy. It says “Participant.”

“But we won every game,” the dad says to himself. “Why do we get the same trophy as all those teams we beat? Are we gonna start ending games with hugs instead of handshakes? No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.”

As father and son get into their Kia Sorrento SUV, the dad rips off the gold “Participant” plate and takes out a black Sharpie and writes “Champ” in its place.

The dad hands the trophy back to his son and says, “Here you go, champ.”

The reason I love this commercial is because it blows the political correctness culture out of the water.

It’s important for kids to learn that they should give their best effort in any situation, but the goal of playing sports or doing anything else isn’t to compete. It’s to win.

That doesn’t always happen, but winning and excellence must be the goal. That’s how we improve ourselves and those around us. Being on the field with no purpose or goal is a waste of time.

Unfortunately, the participation culture still pervades America and, in large part, kids are often sent the wrong message.

That couldn’t have been more apparent last weekend after Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller was named Southeastern Conference special teams co-player of the week for becoming the first woman to ever compete in a Power 5 football game.

Fuller’s accomplishment was executing a squib kickoff to open the second half of Vanderbilt’s 41-0 loss to Missouri. She’s the goalkeeper for the Vanderbilt girls soccer team, and she was pressed into service because the Commodores were short players because of COVID-19.

Fuller stepped in for her school and did what was asked of her. But as a result, she shared co-player of the week honors with Florida’s Katarius Toney, who returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown in the Gators’ 34-10 win over Kentucky.

Toney actually made a difference in his team’s win, while Fuller’s honor was turned into a publicity stunt even though she broke the metaphorical glass ceiling.

As a friend said, it was a promotional attempt to create a groundbreaking moment in sports that wasn’t. Had she kicked a game-winning field goal, that would’ve been different.

My friend went on to point out that girls have actually kicked field goals before for non-Power 5 schools. How come they weren’t honored?

As the father of an 8-year-old girl, I’m always stressing that there’s hardly anything girls can’t do. If Fuller can inspire other young women to do great things, that’s fantastic.

But co-player of the week? That’s a bridge too far, and all about political correctness instead of accomplishment.


‘DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO’: This seems to be the mantra of so many politicians these days when it comes to moralizing and COVID-19 hypocrisy.

The most noteworthy was California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who dined at the ultra-expensive French Laundry restaurant for a birthday party with more than a dozen friends after encouraging residents of his state not to gather in such situations out of fear for spreading the virus. Dinners there cost at least $350 a person.

Then we have Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who made a Zoom video telling residents of his city to stay home and avoid non-essential travel while he was on a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, following his daughter’s wedding.

Newsom and Adler are two of many examples of hypocritical politicians, and both were forced to eat crow and apologize. But at first, Adler stressed he didn’t do anything wrong. Really?

It’s no wonder America continues to be so resentful of the political class when so many politicians have a sense of entitlement and think they deserve special privileges

Reach Fred Hartman at