If you’re one who wants sportsmanship over the fact of the outcome, consider that it actually takes a few outcomes to teach us how to win, or lose, with grace and dignity.
As a point of introducing a couple of very important reminders with area sports…I had a wonderful discussion last week with a local athletic administrator over the topic of sportsmanship…and the current wave of feeling across the state and country that the outcome of games is secondary to an attitude of graciousness on the part of the competitors.
The OHSAA promoted this widely during its fall sports championships, to the delight of some who write to this website and “remind” us…”that there’s simply too much emphasis put on winning”. Or that, “winning at all costs makes losers out of all of us.”
“I think it’s good that you write about this,” the individual said last week. “Because sportsmanship has become like politics. Everyone’s afraid to talk about it because they don’t want to offend anyone.
“But a lot of us still know”, he added with pause and emphasis, “… what true sportsmanship is.”
And at least in my view what he meant was this. True sportsmanship is providing the competitive challenge that makes the outcome worthy of claiming victory, or defining defeat. Yes, helping a vanquished opponent across the finish line is a humane and symbolic gesture. “Finishing” the race for some is a notable mark of achievement. But for many others it’s not the same fulfillment as finishing first in the race. Otherwise, why compete, or keep score?
Or why emphasize the value of winning as a life lesson, which school administrators have long done as a justification for sports as a part of balanced curriculum?
And to this person’s point about knowing what true sportsmanship is…you cannot appreciate the values of competition without a focus on winning or losing. “Everything else is just intra-murals,” Woody Hayes once said.
Former Notre Dame and South Carolina coach Lou Holtz once mentioned that the habit of winning is what drives us to new accomplishment. “You eliminate winning and you have a mediocre world,” said Holtz.
What he could have said was…you eliminate winning and you also eliminate an appreciation for those who fail, because in the absence of winning there is no difference in people – and their appreciation for achievement of any kind.
And of course, this.
True sportsmanship comes in different forms, shapes and sizes. It cannot be spoon-fed; and it cannot be learned from a commercial. Adults demand that young athletes “perform” sportsmanship with handshake lines in the heat of the competitive moment. And often this is fine.
But some of those young athletes haven’t lived long enough to have control over their emotions, to know how to come down from the disappointment of losing in time to extend a genuine hand when the sting of losing is still fresh in their mind. “Demanding” sportsmanship at that moment might not be so fine. It can be embarrassing when it doesn’t go as planned.
Rather, would it not be better to allow for a cooling off period away from the field or the court – better to allow coaches and adults to intercede first – before athletes are allowed to address each other?
This makes sense, but it doesn’t make the adults happy who want to go home satisfied with a display of warm and fuzzy. Many have forgotten, if they ever knew, what it felt like to both win and lose.
True sportsmanship comes from experiencing both.
It’s also time for another, and equally important, reminder…that this coming weekend marks the annual Versailles Diamond Club baseball fundraiser…Saturday at 6 pm at the Knights of Columbus hall in Versailles.
It’s hosted by major league pitcher Craig Stammen and a long list of community volunteers, and it’s one of the true winter highlights for area baseball fans.
Former Red, and member of the Big Red Machine, George Foster is scheduled to be a featured guest, but other notables, including Ft. Loramie native and Texas Ranger outfielder Jarod Hoying, and hall of fame writer, Hal McCoy, will be on hand, as well. And an impressive array of memorabilia available through silent auction will add to the evening fun and make it one to remember.
If you’re interested in tickets, contact Bernie Knapke at 459-8866 and he’ll hook you up. It’s fun, it serves a tremendous value to area amateur baseball, and you’ll enjoy the hometown experience of rubbing elbows with some great baseball people.
The Versailles Diamond Club fundraiser, this Saturday, at the K of C, in Versailles!