Sometimes they finish first

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2002

We've all heard that oft-repeated quote about how nice guys finish last in the game of life. It's often said in the same breath as the one about winning not being everything

just the only thing.

They're catchy little sayings, of course, and in our cynical world often appear to be true.

Email newsletter signup

There are those blessed exceptions to the rule. Case in point: the winner of the million dollar top prize in the third season of the popular reality show "Survivor", one twenty-something professional soccer player and coach named Ethan Zohn.

Ethan is a perfect pick to be a media darling in many obvious ways. The boy is camera-ready', so to speak. There's his buff athlete's physique. Those big brown doe eyes, loads of extravagantly curly black hair and gorgeous shy-guy smile don't hurt one bit either.

Turns out ol' Ethan is a lot more than just another telegenic face and body, however.

Seems young Mr. Zohn is also in possession of certain qualities such as steadfastness, decency and kindness.

Ethan made alliances and he stuck to them through thick and thin. His word was his bond. He tried to tell the truth and avoid being duplicitous with his fellow survivors.

He treated others with respect, didn't talk trash and played a clean game.

He was the guy fellow survivors described as "super-nice" and "a sweetheart." And yes, this Survivor' addict was pulling for him to win – and not just because he was a "hottie"(OK, as a red-blooded American female that was hard to ignore). But this writer also sensed Zohn was the real deal'

the truly good guy he appeared to be.

By the world's reckoning a sweet, kind, respectful fellow like that should never have made it to the final four, much less take home the cool million.

Let's face it-qualities like that are so old-fashioned. Well, hooray for old-fashioned values and morals that never really go out of style.

As a young teen, Zohn had to watch his beloved dad battle cancer. Zohn's mom said Ethan always made sure he was home in time each night to help his father up to bed, no matter what. When the elder Zohn lost his fight, Ethan, the youngest child in his family, made sure he was there for his widowed mom.

Ethan and his family are still "tight." His mom and siblings were always cheering him on while back home during the competition. Sure, they wanted him to win and they are super-proud he pulled it off.

But there was something more important to Ethan's mom than having her son come back with the million.

"My mom," Ethan said simply, "reminded me coming back from Africa with my integrity intact was what really counted."

What a wise lady. How fortunate Ethan Zohn is to have as his mom this great woman who understands what really counts in life.

It's not the fame, the media hoopla, the money, the power or glamour that ultimately matters. It's being able to look at yourself each morning in the mirror and still respect what you see.

Kudos to the capable

and thoroughly nice

young Mr. Zohn for surviving 39 days of hunger, thirst, heat, pain, fatigue, treachery and trouble-and coming home with both his integrity and the money.

You see, nice guys can finish first. Thanks for reminding us of that, Ethan.