Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday July 9, 2009
: conduct (as fairness, respect for one’s opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport
The above is the definition of sportsmanship, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
Most of us learn of it and its use when we are children. Many learn it at a very young age when they begin playing games with other children. Whether or not you participate in sports as a youth, you’re taught to be a good sport.
As a young child, you learn rather quickly that if you lose a game and grab your ball and go pouting off towards home, that the other children are less likely to play or be even less friendly when you play the next time. You learn even quicker if you are playing a board game with your family and you throw your game piece and a tantrum if you are not the winner.
Should you miss this lesson before your school age years, you will be learning of sportsmanship throughout your educational years, whether on the playground or in a sports setting. The higher you go, especially in sports, the more you are expected to display its use. In some sports — take football, for instance — your team can even be penalized if you are judged to be displaying unsportsmanlike conduct.
But hey, let’s just say you are one of those that grew up with that chip on your shoulder. You may be a talented individual, and perhaps may have played a sport at a collegiate or even semi-pro level, but in your recreational life, when you are out with the “guys” playing pool, softball, poker, or whatever, and you display immature or boorish behavior — just see where that gets you!
We all know people like that. People that are generally OK… until they lose at something or don’t get their way. When that happens, are you inclined to want to play with them again? And what is your opinion of them then? The answer is that they are usually thought of as an ass. Suddenly, you “forget” their number just before the next poker game!
The point to all this is simple: there is right and there is wrong. It is wrong to act like an arrogant, petulant, self-absorbed, sniveling little cry baby if and when you should happen to lose. If you did NOT learn all this when you were young, one of the following (or maybe a combination) of things may have happened — either your parent(s) were negligent in your upbringing, or they weren’t negligent and you are just stupid, or… you just choose to be an ass. It is as simple as that.
As I said earlier, the older you get, the more that is expected of you. If you are a NASCAR driver, a person that has reached the pinnacle of the motorsports world, there is NO EXCUSE for displaying unsportsmanlike conduct or petulance when adversity (or the wall) rises up to bite you. Did you hear me? NONE! I don’t care how talented you are or think you are, at this level there is no excuse for it.
As with any sport, game, or competition in general, there are going to be high levels of emotions. That is a given, but there is a time and place for those emotions AND there are proper ways and avenues to express them, too.
In NASCAR, sportsmanship after a loss or wreck is not required, but it IS expected no matter who you are, how talented you are, or how old you are. Anyone who chooses not to use it AND those who dismiss or defend it are just plain wrong.
The choice is up to the individual. You can be “class”… or you can be “ass.” One is right and one is wrong.
Stay off the wall,
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