By Michael Scully
Many years ago as a young Buffalo sports fan, I recall local sportscaster Stan Barron signing off his reports with the exhortation “So long, be a good sport!”
As we go through our lives, we remember sage words of wisdom, advice and encouragement from numerous role models such as parents and family members, teachers, coaches and even sportscasters. I believe that many of the challenges which we face in our interpersonal dealings can be eased by simply adhering to the rules of fair play, or good sportsmanship.
True, life is not a game and the playing field is by no means level for all participants, but much can be gained by simply following the rules that have been established and respecting the other “players” with whom we engage.
Just as our sports teams don’t win them all, we all experience setbacks in life. We commit errors and stupid penalties that could have been avoided, and in looking back we often shake our heads in disbelief at how we let ourselves or our “team” down. The key is to learn from such adversity and to never doubt ourselves.
Life is so much more unpleasant for all involved when poor sportsmanship occurs. In an actual sporting event, this would be evident in dirty play, taunting or fighting an opponent, and failure to support teammates due to jealousy or resentment. Being a good team player means respecting the coach and playing hard, even if the team is losing and other players are not giving their best effort. It may entail calling out such teammates to be accountable, but always in a supportive way that doesn’t demean either them or yourself.
My favorite sport is football. One of my very favorite things about this sport is what happens at the conclusion of a game, regardless of the outcome. Two teams that have smashed their bodies violently into each other while playing their hearts out for over three hours, all the while risking serious injury, will congregate on the field to shake hands and fraternize. It is inspiring and heartwarming to witness countless demonstrations of good sportsmanship at all levels of sports, from midget soccer to Special Olympics, right up to senior competitions.
I’ve participated in softball and volleyball leagues where all players on both teams shake hands after the games, and have run many races over the years in which the post-race parties are the main event. It’s all about having fun together in a spirit of camaraderie, fair play and fun.
Nowadays in many youth sports, all players are given equal playing time, no matter how good of a player they are. This differs from my days in Little League when the best players got more playing time. The less talented players were guaranteed limited time, but understood that the objective was to win and everyone is not automatically entitled to the same privileges. I contend that this may still be the best model for youth sports.
As long as every kid gets to play, it provides an early lesson that the more hardworking, skilled individuals in most walks of life will reap the rewards.
Wouldn’t it be sweet if these notions of fair play and camaraderie were extended to life in general? How about if every driver set out with the goal of sharing the road and extending courtesy to others? Or imagine if our political leaders made an honest effort to be good sports and work together for the common good?
Michael Scully, of Williamsville, has learned lessons from athletics.