A long, long time ago, I can still remember, how athletics used to make me smile. Unfortunately, these days, examples of genuine fair play, which many of us remember fondly, seem harder and harder to come by in high level sports.
The professional mainstream sports that fill the media are often the targetable culprits, filled with hot shots diving, cocky taunting from contesting hair cuts, and performance drug use. On one hand, it makes for great TV and succulent drama for some (I need something to watch while Scandal is on holiday) and doesn’t necessarily mean the whole world of sports is doomed. After all, most children are not injecting steroids into their eyeballs.
On the other hand, allowing (and even encouraging) acts of unsportsmanlike conduct in professional sports perpetuates the cycle of sportsmanship’s decline, allowing these situations to persist in the game, infecting younger players that look up to elite athletes and the leagues they play in.
And then, just when you think all is lost, a rogue tennis player gives his opponent a tip on a bad call and the recap video goes viral. Suddenly, all the war and death in the world evaporate as this dazzling reminder of humanity floods the interwebs:
Well, maybe not all that.
While that was really great of Jack Sock, we are only celebrating it because it is so uncommon in most sports. We are used to players taking advantage of bad calls, playing refs rather than the game. The resulting effect is that every time someone plays honestly, we treat it as if the player has just found a cure for some devastating virus:
There are some instances of fair play in high-level sports. However, not all that glitters is gold, and not all examples of sportsmanship are, well, all that sporting.
The truth is, widespread examples of sportsmanship don’t happen that frequently in most sports. Being a good sport shouldn’t be so rare that each time it happens, our news feeds explode. For one, because it isn’t rare in all sports.
The above videos barely scratch the surface on the type of sportsmanship that occurs in ultimate every day. Call it a product of self-officiation. Attribute it to players being fed up with “mainstream sports.” It all comes down to Spirit of the Game though, the founding value of ultimate that places love of the game and respect for all players above winning.
To be fair, all sports aren’t as young and thoughtful as ultimate, and it is wonderful to see athletes in all forms of competition playing fair. We don’t own the rights to sportsmanship (copyright paperwork pending). We are just enjoying every bit of how awesome it makes playing the game.
So here’s a challenge for all you players and fans: let’s make sportsmanship the status quo at ALL levels of play, not an optional publicity stunt for the occasional high level athlete.
The levee is only as dry as we make it, my friends.