58: Fair Play

58: Fair Play

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

Fair Play

One day while golfing with colleagues in the insurance industry, I discovered yet another example of honesty being the best policy. I knew two of the men in our foursome, and was just getting to know our fourth—I’ll call him Ace. By the third hole, I had learned his story, an object lesson for all of us.

Ace and his business partner had owned a property-and-casualty insurance agency. They had put in the years and the sweat, and the agency grew into a respected midsize firm. It attracted the attention of one of the big conglomerates. After some negotiations back and forth, Ace and his partner decided to sell to the “big guns,” agreeing to stay on as consultants and continue to do some selling. The paperwork was completed in a flash and everyone seemed pleased.

After a couple of years, Ace and his partner felt they weren’t active enough and decided they wanted to go back to running a brisker business, like they had before. The “big guns” said they couldn’t, claiming they had agreed to never again work in insurance outside the big firm.

Ace said, “Show me where we agreed to any such thing.” The “big guns” claimed it had been an oral agreement.

Ace knew there had never been such a discussion, much less an agreement, so he said, in effect, “See ya in court.”

In court, the judge agreed an oral contract is as good as a written one, if it could be established there was a contract. His issue was whom to believe. After two days of listening to both sides insist their memory was the truth of it, the judge said, in effect, “It’s basically a question of who do I believe, and in the absence of any real evidence, I have to go with my gut. My gut tells me to trust experience. The experience that’s relevant here is that a number of years ago Mr. Ace played in the golf state championship. On the eighteenth, he hooked a drive into the rough. He was up and out in one, made his putt and everyone thought he had won the tournament, except that Ace admitted he had grounded his club in the hazard and declared a two-shot penalty on himself. No one had seen him ground his club. He could have slinked through and taken the win, but he didn’t. He told the truth when he didn’t have to, and I believe he’s telling the truth now.” Case closed.

Fair play is the best policy, in sports, in business, in all relationships, for all the right reasons, and for ones you can’t anticipate at the time you make your choices. I have seen this truth exposed time and time again, and never more tidily proving the old saw—virtue is its own reward—than here.

~Ed Marion
Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul

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