Monday, November 22, 2004


Where did the notion of sportsmanship go?

I've heard this thought a bunch over the past few days, the speakers complaining of some recent American pro-sports shenanigans. A basketball game turned into a brawl, with at least one player climbing into the stands to attack a fan. Police came ont the field to try to control a sideline clearing melee at a college football game. I'm not going to mention baseball.

If events like these are the first indication you've had of lapses in sportsmanship, well, wrong. My concern, referred to obliquely a few days ago, is about an attitude many players and broadcasters have that "a rule isn't a rule if you get away with it." The football player that moves the ball after play has stopped. Hockey player that spears another when the ref isn't looking. Tennis players that go into professional histrionics at a supposed bad line call.

And the television announcers support it, with their jabber about how "he got away with one there," and "Look, they're trying to get the next play  off before anyone can challenge the call."

I'm especially disappointed in the players who defended their behavior.

This is what I don't want my kids seeing. These are the messages I don't need them learning. Someone once said "I'd rather have my children watch a film of two people making love than two people trying to kill one another."   I couldn't care less about sex on TV. Janet Jackson is irrelevant. If there is erosion of social fabric (a favorite topic of some), it stems from our kids learning that fairness and respect don't matter. And what's next? Hit-and-run accidents, drive-by shootings and Enron.

So far as those backetball and football players over the past few days? Bar them from the sport for life.  Once there are real consequences, you'll be amazed how quickly these prima donna attitudes change. Fines don't cut it. Maybe making them wear a patch on their uniform for their next few games that say "I'm a bum" would help.

Better yet, decertify those two college football teams. The focus on sport at college made a certain sense when it was to teach sportsmanship. It is demonstrably failing to do that.

I just read now that in fact there were some game and season suspensions for some involved in the basketbrawl. Well and good. But a survey at shows that the vast majority of the public believe the season or 25 game suspensions were just right or too harsh, the 6 game suspension was just right.  Folks, you just want a rematch, don't you?

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