Many times I feel like the guy Hank Jr. described in “Dinosaur.” It seems like the world has turned and left me behind and that even the most basic of truisms just aren’t true anymore. It can be flat out depressing.
This is not to say I oppose progress. In fact I laud it and want it. We need to seek out better ideas and better ways to do things. Not everything was more perfect years ago certainly. But I can’t help sometimes feeling that again a line from an old country song may also be appropriate. As the Judds once said, “They call it progress, but I just don’t know.”
One of the basic self-evident truths I used to think everyone (or most everyone) accepted was the idea of sportsmanship and basic decorum. I must be one of the few idealists left (or perhaps ever in the first place) who bought in to the stuff my parents and elders and Little League coaches tried to teach me.
I used to believe that everyone believed in showing some reservation when winning or achieving. I thought it was universal that acting indignant at success was boorish and frowned upon. I thought most of us did not condone trash talk, vulgarity, unnecessary showmanship. I thought we all believed we should be at least somewhat modest and humble at least publicly about our successes.
These are the things I have been taught and have taught my teams for years. Apparently I am now as alone in my beliefs as Henry Fonda at the beginning of Twelve Angry Men.
One of my favorite stories was told by former NBA player and coach and US Olympian Doug Collins. He had had a huge scoring night for his college team. It had been the headline in the local newspaper. His coach called him in to the restroom and showed him the headline on a copy of the newspaper as it lay in the bathroom floor, left there by a previous patron. The coaches message to Doug…as good as you were last night, now it is yesterday’s news. What you do next is what is important.
I always thought it was a solid message. Not that we shouldn’t celebrate our success, but we should be mindful that as soon as we are the star the next day we could be the goat. And not in the good way that term has come to be interpreted.
As a coach, we used to play a little team in our district. They were gallant but severely outmatched. It was a couple of the worst nights of the year every year. I always worried about them and about us. Judging by the general public view these days maybe my worry was for naught.
But, I didn’t want to embarrass them while also not wanting to dishonor their effort by lessening ours. Still, I played my best players sparingly, we celebrated little to none. We did our job, took our lopsided win, and got on the bus and headed home. I had the two (at the time) all-time leading scorers in school history on my team. I probably cost them 150-200 career points apiece. They were great with it but then I watch as other coaches use the opportunity against similarly outmatched foes to light up the record books. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. It does.
Similarly, our kids had fun, but not at the expense of taunting others or showboating individually. When did we decide that was fun? In hindsight I wonder, should I have let my kids do a variety of gyrations after made baskets? Should we have choreographed our behaviors after 10-0 runs that lead to an opponents’ timeout? I suppose that is what passes for entertainment these days.
Should we have let our players yell obscenities at the opponent and shrugged it off as competitiveness or exuberance? I suppose I never thought I would see the day where that type of behavior especially in a supposedly amateur event would be so universally accepted and even praised. I am a dinosaur indeed.
I have always believed that I was competitive. I still believe that. I like to win. I like to compete. I will do whatever I can to do so within moral reason. To me anything past that moral reason is not competitiveness but a cop-out, an excuse for ridiculous behavior, behavior we used to at least tacitly deem inappropriate. But not anymore.
So I guess I give. I lose. Have your way folks. Celebrate ad nausea. Curse and scream and yell and stare and stand and admire your wonderfulness. After all, these sporting events, they are really just about you. You and only you and your wants and needs. Nothing more. And why not marvel at your accomplishments when they happen with such outward expression? The games are meant to be fun right? And if that is your definition, your reality, your perspective, your truth…then who am I to judge?