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.