Saturday, February 18, 2006

Play with Honor

I haven't paid that much attention to the Winter Olympics this year, and from what I hear, I'm not alone. I did catch some news this morning about a women's snowboarder who was so far ahead of her competition that she decided to show off short of the finish line...and fell. She lost the race, and the gold. Thirty years from now, her grandaughter will climb up onto her lap, turn her innocent little eyes toward her grandmother and sweetly ask, "Holy Cow, Grandma, what were you thinking?!?"

I actually take a great deal of not-so-secret delight when an athlete shows off and hurts himself or blows a game. I absolutely hate the in-your-face, showboating that dominates sports today. Not surprisingly, you rarely hear the word "sportsmanship" anymore. Used to be that HOW you played the GAME was as important as winning.

When I was occupying space at Ole Miss thirty years ago, my future Marine officer buddies and I had a team in the intramural softball league. We wore fatigue covers (Marines don't call headgear caps or hats) starched and ironed in the inspection-ready fashion called "highly blocked." So we called our team...Highly Blocked. One game that sticks out in my mind was against a team from the law school. I even remember their name: Paper Chase (for the law school movie out at that time). What I really remember about that game was their foul-mouthed, taunting pitcher. Frankly, I had never experienced anything like it. He ran his filthy, insulting mouth the entire game. I bet the guy is a very successful ambulance chaser or politician today--I don't know and don't care. What I do know is, people like him give the rest of the human race a bad name. His short-term tactic was effective--we were rattled by his ranting and they beat us in a close game. But, and here's the lesson for anyone playing sports today, the long-term strategic effect of his actions can't help but be detrimental to his activities today. I'm quite secure in the belief that anyone who ever PLAYED with that guy, wouldn't WORK with him. If he were the most effective criminal defense lawyer in the land, I wouldn't let him represent me...even pro bono.

It's Saturday morning and I bet the guy is sitting at home wondering why no one ever invites him to play golf anymore.
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