Is Sportsmanship Lost on Pro Baseball?
Is Sportsmanship Lost on Pro Baseball?Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
"That was a great game," said Karl. "Man, I love baseball!" We had just finished watching the Cincinnati Reds trounce the Milwaukee Brewers at Rounders, a Welsh bar. It was our regular tradition to watch the Reds-Brewers match-ups in a bar named after the baseball-like game played in the United Kingdom.
We watched the ball players congratulate members of their own team on the game, but I noticed the players didn't do the same for the other team.
Whatever happened to sportsmanship? I asked Karl. Since when did professional athletes lose their sense of sportsmanship?
"They're not sportsmen," Karl said. "They're mercenaries. They're grown men playing a boys' game, trying to get as much money as they can for it. They're no longer playing it for the love of the game, they're playing it for the love of money."
The root of all evil, I said.
"Kid, what are you talking about?" Karl plonked his empty mug on the bar, and signaled to the bartender for two more beers.
Well, look at these guys, I said, gesturing at the television. When I was in Little League, we all lined up and slapped hands with the other players, and said "good game." We did that in high school and college soccer. We did it in football. We did it in cross-country. We even did it when I played Ultimate Frisbee after college.
But you give these guys millions of dollars, and suddenly they're too good to shake hands? Since when did money replace sportsmanship? I demanded.
"They do it in other sports," Karl said. "The NFL, NBA, and NHL all have a post-game congratulations."
Not really. The NFL players just kind of mish-mash together on the field, and some of them head straight to the locker room. The NBA does the same thing. The NHL players will actually line up and shake hands though. I will give you that one.
"But doesn't the idea of sportsmanship seem incompatible with the intense competition and masculinity of sports?"
No, if anything, competition should bring out the best of sportsmanship in an athlete. A good sport is not just someone who doesn't cheat, or doesn't gloat after a win. A good sport is someone who wants to see his or her fellow athletes do well too. A good sport doesn't want to see their competition get hurt, and can lose with grace and dignity.
"In other words, the only thing worse than a poor loser is a poor winner."
Exactly. Let me give you an example. Last week, I had a chance to interview some Indy 500 drivers, and I asked them who their big rivals were. I talked with four drivers, and only one said he had one guy he really liked to beat. Other than that, they had no real rivalries. They said they participated in one of the world's most dangerous sports, and that made them close. They were friends, even if they were on different teams, and while they wanted to win, they didn't want to do it at the expense or safety of their friends. They congratulate each other after a win, and commiserate together after a crash or bad finish.
I even saw a photo of Tony Kanaan hugging Dario Franchitti, after Dario won the 500 this year. Right after the race, Tony tweeted "My best friend and 2 time Indy 500 Champ, I am happy for him" and a link to the photo. Now that's sportsmanship.
"Are you saying baseball players should embrace after each game, and be happy that the other team won?" Karl said.
No, I'm just saying that in some sports, people are happy when their friends win. Why can't baseball players at least pretend to congratulate the other team? Just slap each others' hands, and mumble "good game good game good game" without meaning it? My son's soccer team does that each week.
So, are you telling me that a bunch of 7-year-old kids know more about sportsmanship than grown men being paid millions of dollars? Are you telling me that the 33 fastest men and women can show more sportsmanship and good grace than all 1,200 major league baseball players combined?
"I don't know. But you've sure given me a lot to think about." Karl paid for his beers, and set down his beer mug. "Good debate, Kid."
Good debate, Karl, I said. Then we shook hands briefly, thumped each other on the back, and I went home, secure in the fact that I had completely trounced him.
Photo credit: MsKanaan (TwitPic)
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