James Harrison’s Instagram rant has been all over the media lately. If you somehow missed it, he posted a picture of two participation trophies, with the following caption:

“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”

This caption was followed with the very powerful (I’m dripping with sarcasm here) #harrisonfamilyvalues.

Based on this quote, Harrison apparently wasn’t present when his kids were given the trophies. Maybe he was busy working? Maybe he was at a strip club? Maybe he just doesn’t like going to his kids’ games because they apparently aren’t good enough to win. Could it be that he is embarrassed by them, and therefore has to start this public rant against participation trophies?

Harrison was an outstanding athlete in high school. He was wooed by many major football powerhouses, including Ohio State, Nebraska and Notre Dame. Those schools decided not to offer him a scholarship after he reportedly shot a BB gun in his high school locker room, was suspended for obscene gestures during a game, challenged an assistant coach to a fight, and didn’t keep his grades where they needed to be.

As a pro, Harrison was a great player, but he is also one of the more frequently fined players of all time. Along with being known for cheap shots on the gridiron, he has also taunted numerous people off the field, including his own quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Harrison is quoted as saying he hates Goodell.

Harrison was also arrested in 2008 for assaulting his girlfriend, who is the mother of his kids.

Harrison family values? Hmm…

I’m really not interested in questioning Harrison’s past or current morals or values. I am more interested in understanding why the media and so many others are praising Harrison for his stance on participation trophies. Why are people so angry about kids being given trophies for trying? What’s the big deal? I wonder how Harrison’s six and eight year old sons feel? They never asked to receive the trophies, and may not have even expected to get them. Surely they weren’t crying and whining until they had to be “shut up,” as Harrison states? He acts like he would prefer the coach scream, “You guys are shit!” at the kids before seeing his boys get some insignificant piece of plastic to put on their dresser for a year or two.

Oh, by the way, being awarded for participation is nothing new. 30 years ago, when I was a kid, I had plenty of trophies, medals and ribbons that I received for participating on bad teams and/or in sports I sucked at. They were nice, but I didn’t sit in my room and stare at them all day. It was a pat on the back — a way of saying good job and thanks for playing. The winning teams usually got something nicer, which was fine. We all knew who won or lost anyway, we didn’t need a trophy to tell us. Maybe I was odd, but I don’t remember caring all that much about trophies, whether I “deserved” one or not. Once in a while I won the big trophy, but it didn’t feel much different than the participation ribbon. The potential of winning an award never had anything to do with my level of competitiveness, but getting a little piece of hardware usually made me feel a bit happier, win or lose.

As a parent with young kids, I’m less concerned with making my kids earn a trophy than I am with them being happy. There is plenty of time for them to face the “real world,” and I’m confident that they will adjust as needed. As an adult, it’s been my experience that the most well-adjusted, productive and nice-to-be-around people are usually the most genuinely happy people. The extreme go-getters who stop at nothing to build a career and make a name for themselves (and by the way, who have a tendency to miss their children’s games, recitals, etc.) aren’t always as successful, happy or with-it as they want to appear.

Trust me, I know parenting is extremely hard. I screw up a lot! No one wants their kids to act entitled or spoiled, and we all want them to be the best adults they can be. I’m sure James Harrison had good intentions. Let’s keep in mind, though, that every generation has been worried about their children, and despite all the problems in the world, the earth is still spinning along with all of us trying to hang on.

So think about letting your children have some fun. Let’s tell them their participation trophies are great, proudly display their less than mediocre art work, and smile while listening to their mistake-filled piano playing. Remember that a happy child is a healthy one, and the kids are alright.