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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Act Like You've Been There

It's happening again.  Well, it's been happening forever and shows no signs of letting up.  In Bristol, CT this evening Par-Hills, NJ faced Newark, DE for the Boys Mid-Atlantic Little League Championship.  It was a classic pitchers duel and NJ held a 1-0 lead in the final inning.   Delaware found itself down to their final out quickly.  And with two outs a young man got a hold of a hanging curve ball and sent it to the wall.  Note, it did not go over the wall.  Did that prevent the young man from raising his arms in joy before he touched first base?  Did his over jubilance send the outfielders into disarray?  Nope, he wasn't hustling and the defense played the ball correctly.  The batter barely made it to second and soon thereafter the game was over.  1-0 NJ wins.

Now, since the boy who followed the double made an out you might say much adieu about nothing.  It's a kid showing some enthusiasm.  It's a kid having fun.  Wrong.  It's a kid playing the game the wrong way.  Hit the ball, put your head down, and run until your coaches tell you to stop.  He should have been on third base.  There, a passed ball or wild pitch ties the game.

That's not how things are done anymore.  And as both the Olympics wind down and the NFL gets ready to start up it is high time we address some glaring issues in the sporting life.

First, let's examine Jamaican sprinter and World's fastest man, Usain Bolt.  On one hand his brilliance on the track can not be ignored.  But at the same time his arrogance and ego present issues.  One, his posing at the end of each race shows up his fellow racers.   Crossing the line first and the gold medal that comes with it are reward enough.  The fellow competitors made every effort too Mr. Bolt.   They do not need, nor deserve your showboating and rubbing their collective faces in it?  And you need not say you are "the greatest athlete of all time" in post race interviews either.  Same goes with NBC or the countless other talking heads bestowing such praise to the walking fish called Michael Phelps.  They are all amazing.  They are all worthy of recognition.  They are not, one, or all, the greatest ever.  Really, how on Earth could you figure that out??  They are the best right now, in their respective fields.  Kobe and LeBron are different than MJ and Bird.  Peyton Manning is different from Johnny Unitas.  Stop comparing and enjoy the moment.  And when the moment is here keep your mouth shut and respect the game.

But how can we do that these days when ESPN rules the airwaves and our kids are emulating highlight reel whores?  Recently arrested Miami Dolphins receiver is a gifted athlete capable of remarkable things on the field.  Unfortunately when his name comes up more often than not you think of over the top touchdown celebrations (in addition to rap sheets.)  Quick, name his last great sporting accomplishment.  Ok, name the last 3 (yes, 3!!) reality shows he has appeared on/in.

Slam dunks are valued more than a crisp bounce pass.  Bone jarring hits on the ice get as much time as a defenseman laying out to block a slap shot.  The major networks are content (read: over the top giddy) showing Tiger Woods play his weekend round even is he is out of contention.  Will he swear?  Spit?  Freak out on a cameraman??

We shouldn't care!  The game should be the event.  And the game should be played the right way and without any ego.

Fat chance?  Maybe.  But as the summer winds down and many of us head to the sporting field to coach or volunteer the opportunity is there to make real change.

Tell your kids to play hard, fair and with above board sportsmanship.  It's not the end of the world if they tell an opponent "nice play."  There should never be taunting or teasing of the foe.  Kids should hustle through each base and never show up a pitcher, or goalie, or opposing coach.  Act like you've been there and do it with a smile on your face.  Take a look here folks...  This is how it is done. Where have you gone Barry Sanders?

PS:  What will NBC do now that the Games are over?  Can a monkey show and Matthew Perry be the answer?  What on Earth are Rhythmic Gymnastics and how is that an Olympic event and baseball/softball is not?  Will Tiger ever win another Major?  The Yankees will NOT win the World Series this year!  The Newsroom turned out to be a terrific show.  The Romney/Ryan ticket is compelling and will make a formidable foe for the current administration.  Have a great week folks!  Summer is winding down...  go get some.

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