Sportsmanship Matters

I agonized over a decision this evening.  I have a bad cold, and even took a day away from work to try to get over it.  Those of you who know me know that I have a great deal of trouble breathing in cold weather, especially after playing basketball.  And the Carfax team is very important to me, especially considering the friends I have on the team.  But I decided against playing.

What wasn’t up for debate was whether or not I’d be at the game.  I was.  In uniform.  And ready to play *IF* it came to that.  I have great teammates, and they didn’t need me;  they picked up for me when my health let them down.  I didn’t face criticism, but support.  That’s what REAL teams do.  You see, sportsmanship starts at home.

The last three years have been the three best years the Carfax team has ever had.  We have better chemistry than ever.  We like each other more, and we respect each other.  I’m not going to pretend that we’re as good of sportsmen as we need to be, but we’re better than we’ve ever been about respecting our teammates.

How fitting it was this weekend in watching NFL football that we got to see the failure of POOR sportsmanship.  I watched a significant part of the Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati game – notably, the end of that game.  Cincinnati took poor sportsmanship to its ultimate conclusion – a loss.  And it didn’t take an entire team to get to that, either.  When it comes to sportsmanship, one rotten apple *DOES* spoil the barrel.

We have a saying on the teams I coach:  “Sportsmanship puts REAL POINTS on the scoreboard.”  It does it because sportsmanship allows other folks to help you along toward your goals.  Sportsmanship gets other folks to share their secrets to success with you.  Sportsmanship makes you the recipient of knowledge, instruction, inside information, and support.

Poor sportsmanship leads to resentment.  It leads to things like we saw in Cincinnati.  My personal favorite was the tirade Pacman Jones threw afterward.  He fired off a profanity-laced complaint about a coach being on the field.  And you know – he might – just might – have had a point.  But we’ll never know, because when Pacman Jones saw someone who wasn’t supposed to be where he was, Pacman Jones decided to bump them.  Apparently Jones must know some football rule that I’m unaware of, namely that “it’s okay to push someone if they’re somewhere you don’t think they should be.”

Folks today think that sportsmanship means you shake hands with the other team’s players after the game.  A few might even shake hands with referees.  It will be the rare one that thanks the folks running scoreboard and the clock.  But if that’s as far as your sportsmanship goes, then you’re not going much of anywhere.

Sportsmanship is an attitude that you adopt and wear for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 in leap years).  The sportsman acts as a protector and custodian of the game itself, and that’s a lot harder than people think!

Kobe Bryant recently remarked that if he had to advise his younger self, it would be about compassion and empathy.

In the meantime, the legacy Kobe Bryant leaves is one of typical poor attitude toward teammates – a franchise in decline.  By failing to have real respect for those folks he played with, the team around Bryant has declined;  those who could have stayed and helped him are long gone.

But in Golden State, they’re celebrating, being led by the 2010-11 Joe Dumars Trophy winner (awarded to the NBA’s best sportsman) – Stephen Curry.  Curry won that award his second year in the league.

The Greyhounds have a sportsmanship trophy that we call the Hamilton Trophy.  I believe it’s important for folks to be recognized for being great sportsmen, because I believe this is truly one of the notable character qualities necessary for sustained high performance.

Exercise your sportsmanship.  Accept the brotherhood that basketball offers with your fellow players, and do your part to enhance and strengthen it.  These qualities will not only make you a better player, but a better person.

Did our Carfax team win tonight?  No.

But we did score our season’s high in points.

Sportsmanship puts REAL POINTS on the scoreboard.




3 thoughts on “Sportsmanship Matters”

    1. I adore Deacon Grimes. I so badly miss him this year; I’ve dealt with him in some form or fashion for the last four. And here’s the thing, Deacon is such a great example of how you can be angry at a loss, aggressive towards an opponent, a physical, intimidating presence, AND still be a great sportsman. He’s one of the best examples of this that I know.

      Deacon worked hard all game long. When he fouled – and he fouled a lot – he did it with a passion. Sometimes, he even crossed the line into “dirty” with fouls that were unnecessary in terms of the game. And I can’t say Deacon wouldn’t kick you when you were down, because in the 2015 Upward season, Zach Anderson – who’s no slouch when it comes to the physical game, himself – had trouble breathing after the games because Deacon apparently kicked him in the ribs! But Deacon never wanted bad for any of the folks; he was hustling, doing what he could to help his team. And you talk to him after a game, if he had lost, he might be a bit mad, but he wasn’t hiding away; he’d be out talking to opponents, taking the beating with a sense of grace and unshakeable confidence.

      It wouldn’t be too hard for a person who didn’t play on his team to not like Deacon during a game. But there weren’t too many people who didn’t like Deacon after the game was over or before it started.

      Last year, what impressed me about Deacon was how hard during the Upward season he lobbied for his teammates to be Greyhounds – folks like Tosin Ogungbade, Lemuel Miner, and Ely Yoseph. Deacon loved his teammates. He told me many times how we needed to get these guys for the Greyhounds.

      One of these days, I expect to see him return to the Greyhounds as a coach. It won’t be this year, because he was last year’s team captain, and the returning guys need to learn to develop their own leadership without relying on “last year’s guy.” But give it a year or two; I think Deacon is going to be the next Greyhound who follows in the footsteps of Josh Wade, Travis Line, Mason Chandler, and Sam Clubb, and returns as a Greyhound coach. And I’m looking forward to that.

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