Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sports- the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

There are certainly a lot of good things when it comes to sports:
good sportsmanship, camaraderie, teamwork, sports stimulate the economy, provides entertainment, gives underprivileged youths a chance to succeed, and more. Wealthy pro sports management does donate a portion of profits to worthy causes.

Here's a recent internet article re: an under 17 girl’s soccer tournament in Costa Rica:

The U.S. team girl’s soccer team was playing Haiti, a team of girls that two months ago was dealt an unlucky hand, an earthquake that killed more than 200,000. All of the girls arrived for the tournament in Costa Rica homeless.

U.S. goalie Bree Haeberlin said she and her teammates started strategizing almost immediately about how to handle the Haitian girls. They weren't thinking of what kind of offense to run or how to shutdown Haiti's leading scorer. They were thinking about what they could do as a team to help the Haitian girls ease what must have been, Bree and her teammates thought, an unimaginable pain.

"A lot of my teammates talked about doing a fundraiser or something to help them," Bree said.

U.S. Soccer caught wind of the girls' concerns and stepped in to help them. They decided to collect as much soccer gear and clothing and toiletries and whatever else they could pack up and carry to Costa Rica as gifts to their Haitian counterparts.
"I got my high school team to donate toothpaste, toothbrushes, goalie gloves and cleats," said Bree. They divided up the gifts into individual backpacks for each of the girls on the Haitian team and took off for Costa Rica.

It wasn't much of a contest, of course.
The U.S. won 9-0, but no one was thinking about the game.
And now no one who saw it end will ever forget it.

"When the final whistle blew," Bree recalled, "I walked to midfield with my teammates to shake hands with the Haitian team, and as I did I looked downfield and saw their goalie laying on the ground, crying.
"We started walking to her. Her coach helped her up," Bree said, "and I opened my arms and hugged her. She was crying and I started crying," Bree said. "And all my teammates began crying. Nobody spoke any French," Bree said of Haiti's native language. "We communicated with a nod and a smile."

Bree said it didn't last more than a minute and a half. But there is no doubt they all will carry the moment for the rest of their lives.

Waumbach’s email concluded:

"The example that you all showed is exactly the kind of thing that makes this game so special. We have the ability to do so much. Keep up the good work, and keep making us proud. You all are an inspiration."

Before all the young women's teams depart Costa Rica this week, the U.S. team will see the Haitians once more. It will be when they deliver their gifts of goodwill, exercising the life-affirming act of humanity once more.

There is another side of the coin...

Sports is a form of gambling, whether money is put on the line or not- it’s winning and losing. Some people become obsessed with it and make it almost a religion. The following is an internet news blurb when the US beat the Canadian hockey team the first time in the Olympics:

“A memorable Sunday on Canadian ice provided the latest and most powerful evidence of poor sportsmanship. Thirty years after the epic Soviet triumph that was more about conquering Communism than breaking through in the sport, the Americans achieved the next-most impressive deed: They mortified a psychotic land too obsessed with its puckaholic religion, sending the Canadians into deep mourning -- and their Olympic team into major crisis mode -- by coming to an arena called Canada Hockey Place and putting them all in their place.

(Bleep) USA! (Bleep) USA!" some of the bitter Canadians were chanting in the arena's upper reaches as the demoralizing reality sank in.”

I was in Lawrence, Kansas on my job, driving through the student living section of the KU campus on a football pregame Saturday. I saw many students walking to the game wearing blue t-shirts with big white letters screen printed on the front: Muck Fissouri.

At games, I sometimes hear, “Kill him!”, “Crush him!” “Ref you suck!”, and worse.

I have to wonder what kind of influence these examples have on our young people.
What is it teaching them? Good values? Good sportsmanship? I think not.

I’m concerned about the influence that these examples have on all ages.
Is winning a sporting event that important?
It’s temporary satisfaction.
Are “bragging rights” that important?
ie: My team is the champion for this year, and since this is my favorite team and I root for them that must mean that I am a champion too…
until the next season starts. Then the same cycle begins again.

It's certainly fun to win, I don't deny that. But aren't there more important ways to feel like a "champion?" ie: donating to a charity, volunteering your time to a good cause, spending time with family, etc.

I think people need to embrace more important causes to boost their self-esteem.
Great, have some fun with sports. But try not to overdo it. If you’re going to be a sports fan, be a good sport, a good influence to that young person who might be sitting close by.