What is sportsmanship? The official definition states: sportsman-like conduct, fairness, courtesy, being a cheerful loser, etc. (I’ve never met anyone that’s been cheerful about losing a game).
For purposes of this blog, ‘sportsman’ refers to college football – players, coaches, and fans. Yes, fans. Sportsmanship should not only be exhibited on the field, but also in the stands, at tailgate parties, in the classroom, on campus, in the neighborhood, at work, in church… anywhere. Is everyone a good sport? Nope. That’s nothing new – poor sports have been around since the beginning of competition. We didn’t wake up in 2014 to players being dirty on the field and fans bashing each other over it.
Yes, airing it out on twitter and facebook is more current-day. The advent of social media enhanced our ability to be a poor sport. It’s a lot easier to fire off a post, text, or email versus saying something directly to a person. I’ve seen things online in the last week that embarrass me to be a football fan, SEC fan, or just a fan in general.
For the record, I don’t advocate dirty play on the field, but I’m not naïve to think it doesn’t happen, if not encouraged. As early as pee wee football, kids are often taught by coaches AND parents to ‘go for the knees’ ‘punch ‘em in the stomach’ ‘kick ‘em in the %@#s.’
Like it or not, it’s reality. Football is a contact sport involving aggressive physical play – there’s a reason they wear a helmet and pads. Back in the day, before all the extraneous rules, teams simply played football. There were no reviews by the referees, no guidelines about celebrations, no challenging on penalties – just football.
Important to note: I agree with the changes in penalties concerning head-to-head hitting because of the serious medical implications.
In the 1990’s the NCAA began giving out a Sportsmanship Award each year – one each to a female and male athlete regardless of sport. There have been 23 recipients so far and out of all those there were only three football-related awards; one being from a small Christian university. What’s my point? Football is a full contact sport. A lot of emotions are played out on the field in each and every contest and emotions breed impulsive actions and aggression.
Recently, there was media attention about Dillon Day (Center, Mississippi State University) who was suspended by the SEC for stomping on a LSU player last weekend… twice. Was that an intentional act? I can’t speak for Dillon – only he knows the truth.
There were other infractions in that particular game and in other games last weekend, that weren’t called, but that’s the way it goes and it’s the way it’s always been. Foul play happens on the gridiron in EVERY game with EVERY team. Again, it’s football. Instant replay and DVR allow us to see the plays… in slow motion. Referees have to call plays as they see them… in super fast ‘real time’ speed. They don’t always get it right… on both sides. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about what happened or what ensued after the fact because it doesn’t change anything.
What does matter is how we, as fans, respond. The bombardment of unsportsmanlike conduct played out online by fans, analysts, etc. was disappointing.
Let’s move on to Week 5 of college football. Turn the emotions into passion for cheering on your team – whoever that may be. Try to be a good sport…