Saturday, November 04, 2006

Afterglow - It's more than a moment

Last night Siuslaw went undefeated in football. I’m not sure the last time that happened, I’m not sure it will ever happen again. What I am sure is that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer coach and team. A graduate of Siuslaw, just like I am, the coach has pride. Pride in his school, pride in his team. Pride in the parents and fans that help make it all happen, who stick by his team week after week, season after season. Each week after every game, the team gathers with fans and family in the middle of the field to sing the Alma Mater and share the afterglow.

Last night after the broadcast was over, the team, family, and fans shared their moment in the midst of a windy rain soaked field and shared. At which point I was watching Air Force drive Army into the ground more than a thousand miles away. Despite being opponents on the gird iron, following the game, both schools – players, family, and fans honored tradition and stood behind the other as their Alma Maters were sung. Gird Iron warriors united in something larger than themselves when the game is done. Even now the thought brings a tear to my eye, or maybe several to both.

Following the triumphs and losses of our youth, we met mid field and acknowledged each other: our worthy opponents, fellow lovers of the game, our friends and our rivals. Our Pee Wee, Pop Warner, Little League coaches taught us sportsmanship and respect. Our coaches in junior high, high school, and college continued the lesson. What happens after that has become a national disgrace.

Following most college games, and many pro football games you’ll see opposing players gather mid field in a circle and pray. They often shake hands, pat the backs of their rivals, and shake off the combat of the battle. Following each Oregon Football game, the Ducks thank their fans, especially those fans, which travel to see their beloved Ducks on the road. They shake hands, discuss the game, and say thank you, and even sign autographs. They remember their sportsmanship. I’m not saying my Ducks don’t do wrong, of course they do. But they don’t do it as a standard conduct, they are gentlemen, and being less is not tolerated. I am proud of them as people, individuals, and as a team.

But what has happened in the pros? Yes, following most games football players will meet and shake hands. But my other love is baseball. They don’t met on the field to shake hands like they did in little league. No, they meet on the field to congratulate each other, their own teammates. How utterly disgusting and ridiculous. It doesn’t even rank above my other disgust in pro sports, and that is celebrating in the end zone. Get real folks. These are professional athletes getting paid thousands, tens of thousands each game and they have thrown sportsmanship out the window. Meet mid field to unite in something bigger than them? You’d think it be possible, they have no problem clearing the benches and meeting mid field, mid game after some imagined or not offense, fist and words flying. These are grown men, paid exorbitant pay checks and sportsmanship has nothing to do with it.

We need to hold professional athletes to a higher standard, not just for our kids sakes, but for our own. We need to walk the walk, talk the talk, not just give the concept lip service to our children. Why is it so easy to tell them to play fair? To be sportsmanlike? To honor the integrity of the game? And then not hold our professional athletes to the same standard? Why is this double standard so easy for us to swallow, over look, embrace? Because yes, many do embraces it. Next time you’re watching baseball with your spouse or significant other and the pitcher from his team retaliates by hitting a batter, ask your beloved if they approved? I know what my husband’s answer will be.

© Cele