Responding to one recent reader of the Press Pros site, and those who advocate for a softer, more inclusive world, some of the best, and hardest, lessons of life are learned through competition and disappointment…and there’s not a thing you can (or should) do about it!
It’s June now, summer, and a time when many are away, traveling, vacationing, and enjoying some “down” time.
Frankly, it’s down time for Press Pros, as well, as much of our normal audience is on the road, their minds absent from their daily reading routine.
For others, it’s a time of reflection, as one wrote this week…taking the time to comment on what he termed a beautiful story of small-town rivalry and fellowship, but questionable, as well, for the intent of a photo published with the story illustrating that for every joyful winner…there has to be a dejected, and vanquished loser, as well.
The writer was kind to include his name, and upon my making contact and inquiry, gave his consent to share his thoughts with those whom he absolutely believes join him in saying – as culture is now fond of saying – “that it doesn’t matter who wins or loses…it’s how you play the game.”
We have edited Ed O’Neil’s comments for brevity, and content.
“I have discovered the Press Pros website over the past year on Twitter. I have some local roots and I congratulate you for your enthusiasm and passion for showcasing the high school athletes you cover. In addition, the photography on your site is breathtaking. Your cameramen are obviously quite skilled and experienced.
But as a contemporary member of the culture you so often question, I also question the use of photos like those published in the recent state tournament game between Minster and Russia high schools, where I believe you drove home the point to excess over which team won, and which team lost. With due respect, I believe it detracted from an otherwise beautiful story of small-town rivalry and fellowship.
You often write about the value of winning. And I really believe that you believe there’s no alternative. But I would point out that this is a day where over-emphasizing winning only deepens the obvious divisions in our country, our culture, and to those with different gifts. Losing, like poverty and unequal rights and opportunity, is a constant reminder to one side that there’s another side that always must feel superior.
I would encourage you to do more with your platform to reinforce the qualities of sportsmanship and compassion in competition with your coverage. It would do us all a lot of good.” … Ed O’Neil
Without apology, Mr. O’Neil is correct. I was raised as an athlete to value winning while appreciating sportsmanship…and I always will. I had coaches and a lot of good God-fearing folks like Jim Hardman and Frosty Brown remind me that winning is the reward for those who train and work harder than others to achieve a more satisfying outcome. Otherwise, how else do you measure the effort expended in a three-hour ballgame? Why would you even keep score?
And to O’Neil’s point about photos over-emphasizing the negative, I would share that some of the most iconic sports pictures of all-time illustrate the difference in outcomes – of winning and losing. A picture, in those cases, said more than a thousand words. And where illustration is concerned, contemporary photographers have done nothing short of copying the style and illustration handed down by others. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you’ll remember.
I wasn’t around in 1951 when the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson hit the dramatic home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers and pitcher Ralph Branca (right). I wasn’t there to gauge the impact of media coverage. I wasn’t born until a year later.
But Branca later said it was the worst moment of his life – the most depressing point of his baseball career. It was not just a moment of superiority for Thompson and the Giants, it was a moment of crushing dejection…to Branca and the Dodgers.
“A guy commits murder and goes to prison for 20 years,” said Branca at the time. “But after a while he gets pardoned. Not me.”
But years later, after his playing days, Branca reflected differently on the event, rejecting speculation that the Thomson home run had any permanent effect on his psyche and attitude.
“They were saying that Bobby’s home run was such a trauma that I couldn’t go on,” he once told Sports Illustrated. “That’s ridiculous. If you play sports, you expect to lose some. If I hadn’t been hurt (the following spring), that home run wouldn’t have affected me (and my career) at all.”
Which is exactly what sports teaches us from an early age, if properly administered. You cannot expect to win all the time…in anything. And how else do you learn to handle the adversity if you don’t have that reminder – that someone has to win and someone has to lose. Photos have little to do with anything, except that some win Pulitzer Prizes (ours didn’t, and won’t), and years later become cherished keepsakes as a reminder of history.
We live in a day where some would actually favor erasing the darker moments of history altogether…slavery, the Holocaust, the Great Depression, riots, floods and earthquakes. We have no stomach anymore for the negative, and I question, as O’Neil suggests, if there won’t come a day when we’ll become so conciliatory that we let an opponent take away our very freedom and standard of life without putting up a fight…or for fear of hurting another’s feelings.
There’s a time and a place for winning; there always has been. And one of the great values from it is knowing when, and where, it needs to be a priority. That instinct follows you through life and rewards us all with a better education, a better job, a better life mate…and yes, a better life.
With respect for such a fine letter of difference, I will not equivocate on that point, or disrespect those who had the patience and character to teach me over the years from their own personal example. Because of that I know…I’m not perfect, and respect that fact. None of us are. And I learned that, in large part…from sports.
Like it, or not!