What ever happened to sportsmanship? I’m taking leave of my writing journal to pose this question. This weekend, as I watched several college football games develop into what were less than satisfactory outcomes, I experienced a resurgence of my aversion to celebrations by the players. When I was a kid, we were taught to accept victory or defeat in good stead. We didn’t gloat, well, most of us didn’t, because we had some degree of empathy for those we defeated. We knew it was embarrassing to lose, and we tried to impart some dignity to the occasion, although I doubt that any of us actually realized that was what we were doing. None of us tried to be the hero or capture the day by intentionally attempting to be the best of the lot. We all knew who that was, anyway. Our parents laid down the guidelines if they saw us engaging in such selfish and dishonorable behavior.
Now, I know what you must be thinking. ‘Hey, my parents never cared about that stuff. My old man was the biggest blowhard and showoff of them all.’ I imagine demographics play a part in this, but in my neck of the woods we were brought up to respect each other, including our opponents in contests. Games? They were just that: games. We played to have fun, not to ridicule a loser.
So, when I sat in front of my television and watched time after time a young man rush across the goal line, then do a “dance” or some other gesture of victory, the game became a matter of disgust. The fellow writhing in gyrations in the end zone said much about his integrity and character. His actions merely displayed his over-ambitious ego with his message of, “Hey look at me! See how great I think I am?” That is not sportsmanship.
When I look back at sporting events I watched years, no, decades ago, I don’t recall seeing such rude displays of selfishness and disrespect. I’m sure there were rotten apples in the barrel, but they were few. When players made a goal or hit a home run or slammed a basketball home he walked back to his team with pride and dignity, no show of vanity or contempt for the opponent. That was sportsmanship.
Today we have become a society self-absorbed in our own pleasure, indulged with false accolades, and driven to show our superiority at any cost. Sporting events are no longer just games, contests to determine who exhibits the greatest skill, strength, or luck. They have become a battleground for supremacy, unfettered by decorum or etiquette. In many respects our modern-day sporting events reflect our integrity as a society, spoiled with self-gratitude and lack of respect for the game or players.
I wish we could turn the clock back, but we all know that’s just a fart in the wind. It is what it is, and that’s what disheartens me when I try to watch team sporting events on television. Even some individual sports have fallen to the lure of celebration. So, I don’t watch as much as I used to. The contests quickly lose their luster in the nature of sportsmanship.