Monday, March 11, 2013

What does ‘sportsmanship’ mean?

Sometimes, I wonder just how committed people who are into competitive athletics are toward the concept of sportsmanship – as in the idea of trying to maintain some sense of honor and decency while also trying to beat the sense out of the other team!

Because it often can come across as a lot of nice-sounding rhetoric that is ever so cheap when put into practice.

A PAIR OF incidents occurring this weekend make me wonder just a bit more.

One involved the World Baseball Classic ballgame Saturday in which Team Mexico managed to get knocked out of the tourney – a 10-3 loss to Team Canada that turned into a brawl on-field and also saw some fans insist on throwing objects onto the playing field.

At least one Canadian ballplayer was hit with a bottle, and a Canada coach was nearly hit with a baseball thrown on-field by a “fan.”

The Mexico/Canada incident was provoked by the fact that Canada’s national ball club was well on its way to a victory in the 9th inning when a ballplayer did something that Mexican athletes interpreted as an act meant to show them up.

THAT PROVOKED A bean-ball war, brush back pitches, and ballplayers charging onto the field for that group wrestling match that is usually what baseball brawls devolve into.

The final inning follies angered the crowd gathered for the match played in Phoenix to the point that warnings had to be issued – in the form of public address system announcements saying that the ballgame would end in a forfeit for Mexico, if their fans didn’t behave themselves.

Yes, the bulk of the nearly 20,000 fans on hand were cheering for the Mexico ball club – although any objective look at their play in the World Baseball Classic says that Equipo Mexico would still be alive and playing IF ONLY they hadn’t have blown that 9th inning lead they had last week when they played Italy’s national team.

That is where Mexico fan anger ought to be placed – not on any group of Canadians whose own fate in the tourney was resolved on Sunday.

WHICH IS WHY World Baseball Classic officials decided no suspensions, fines or penalties were necessary – since the surprise play of Italy means that both national teams were done.

To an athlete, a loss in the standings is the ultimate punishment.

That same sentiment seems to have prevailed in Peoria Saturday night, where the smaller-enrollment schools played out their state basketball tourneys.

Harrisburg High School in Southern Illinois won a state championship – beating Seton Academy of suburban South Holland 50-44.

HURTING SETON WAS the fact that their top scorer got ejected from the championship game in the second quarter after he made physical contact with a referee.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Seton coach Brandon Thomas was so disgusted with the loss that he refused to have his team participate in the post-game ceremonies – in which the high school would have been presented with a “second place” trophy for making it to the championship game.

Illinois High School Association officials told the Tribune that as far as they’re concerned, Seton “would not receive its trophy, ever.” It was also reported that Thomas got into a verbal scuffle with Harrisburg fans so intense that those fans had to be removed from the Carver Arena.

That has state officials saying they are “disappointed with and embarrassed by” both high schools that took part in the Class 2A basketball championship game, while adding that both high schools will be contacted Monday to inform them of what future actions might occur as a result.

PERSONALLY, I DON’T know what kind of punishment could be meted out.

Do you suddenly re-write the history books to try to claim Seton didn’t play in the championship game, just because they wouldn’t take their crummy second place trophy (just like that climactic scene in “The Bad News Bears” film)?

Or will the ultimate “punishment” for this bad behavior be that most high school basketball fans will focus their attention on the large-school championships (Class 3A and 4A) that will be played in Peoria come Friday and Saturday?

Just as many baseball fans will either focus their attention on the fact that Team Italy played so well, rather than how poorly teams Canada or Mexico behaved in one inning.



PR Smith said...

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PR Smith said...

Yes these are disgraceful examples BUT there are many other inspirational examples (e.g. Japanese baseball team's respect in the US last month). We post one sportsmanship story every day on our facebook page or see our blog where you can search by country and sport for sportsmanship stories I'm visiting Chicago and am happy to do a sportsmanship storytelling session in July if this helps rekindle your belief in sportsmanship. Best wishes, Paul