Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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What we’ve heard since our recent columns on the cheering ban in Wisconsin is the argument between the “practical”, and the “the please”…of what we want to believe about the job we’ve done as parents in teaching children appropriate behavior.

Of all the topics columnized on these pages in the past year none has brought more internet shares, more attention, and more response than that which the subject of “sportsmanship”, emanating from our January 21st blog on the state of Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, CONTINUES to attract.

Believe it or not, that 800-word essay is still being shared via social media, an average of 100 times a day!

It has now been seen in 51 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

It has been sent to readers in 18 of the 50 states, to 44 people in Florida, alone!

Accordingly, we heard from readers in 9 of those 18 states:  in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, New York…and Wisconsin.

And since reprising the topic this past Thursday with a followup entitled, Your Thoughts On Sportsmanship, there’s been another upswell in mail, and opinions, received.

There is NO middle ground. What we read is a totally opposite view on points like appropriate student participation, taunting, good manners, character, handshake lines, and even the issue of the emotional pursuit of a winning outcome on the parts of athletes, themselves.

What we hear is the “practical”, that which seems to make sense in face of human emotions…versus the “please”,  the “feel good” we seek as parents from teaching our children the traditional display of good sportsmanship.

There is a clear line between the two camps.

There are those who believe that winning is important and that you can’t compete to win without emotion. Thus, rather than a public display of sportsmanship, there should be space given for emotions to subside after the game – that asking athletes to forgive and forget in a matter of seconds is simply asking for trouble, and the inevitable.

evergreen_tim_embed_300x340And, there are those who make the case for character over conquest; they’d rather see adolescent athletes behave in the manner they’ve been trained, over a zeal to win, to dominate, and to advance at the expense of another’s disappointment and discouragement.

“I like to see our kids be successful. I like to see them win,” wrote Jody, “But not if it means an ugly scene between teams and communities. And what’s wrong with going home feeling good about how the kids act, and their character, not just who won?”

Our column did make its way to the state of Wisconsin, by the way. And one writer contacted us to defend the state’s ban on chanting “air ball”, and other taunting gestures on the part of student cheering sections.

“In the end, the message should be that no one wins all the time. A lot of us (in Wisconsin) want to see how our kids respond to the disappointment of an emotional negative outcome (as you wrote) in a manner that gives promise to how they’ll act in adult society. This is the broad, true value of high school sports, not the narrow likelyhood of winning a championship. If the state has decided to become involved in this manner they have my support.” – William Mazza

Others were just as strong in defending the “practical” argument of playing hard, and learning through the hard knocks that come from disappointment…and separation at the game’s conclusion to let emotions subside.

“You have to compete and emotion is important to competition,” wrote Mark, from Upper Arlington. “If you’re not emotional you’re just playing intramurals. The practical thing is to give kids time to cool off by themselves. The world is a hostile environment with everything you do. There’s nothing wrong with kids yelling “air ball”.

“Our whole way of life, and quality of life, is based on competition,” wrote Patty, mother of an eighth grader. “There’s nothing wrong with playing to win, but you teach your kids to play hard, play by the rules, and recognize when they feel like they’re losing control…then step back. I don’t need to see them shake hands with the other team to feel good about what we’ve taught them at home. It’s not worth getting punched in the nose.”

“You play the game to win, like Herm Edwards says,” adds Joe, from Siesta Key, Florida. “And leave the political correctness to those who never played.”

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