Tag Archives: Sportsmanship

There is More to Life than Participation Medals

Last weekend an organization I am actively involved with held an event to honor individuals who had helped make a recent keynote event a success.

In addition to providing each of the attendees with a hot lunch of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all of the trimmings, we were each presented with a certificate as a token of thanks for our efforts that helped make the event a success.

They could have easily stopped with just the hamburgers and hot dogs, but the inclusion of individualized certificates was certainly a nice gesture on the part of the organization.

When I looked at the certificate though I noticed some wording that I had not expected.

Instead of it being a certificate of appreciation, the certificate was worded as a certificate of participation.

While it is true that each of us participated in the event I had never really seen a certificate worded that way and was more accustomed to receiving a certificate of appreciation. In fact the certificate the organization gave out for the previous year’s event was worded as a certificate of appreciation.

Of course, at the end of the day, it did not really matter what word was placed on the certificate since I know that all of the hard work was appreciated with or without a piece of paper saying so. It was a nice gesture and my name was spelled correctly so I am definitely not complaining.

The certificate did raise some interesting general observations about appreciation versus participation and how they relate to sports and society as a whole though.

Consider the world of Major League Baseball where nine players participate on the field and in the batting order. Despite all of them participating in the game a quick scan around the grandstands shows that a few of them are appreciated by the fans more than the rest.

If Major League Baseball, and other sports for that matter, were set up in an all are equal manner, there would not be fans dressed in a certain player’s jersey and cheering louder when they came up to bat or made a great play.

If professional baseball was run like some youth leagues no one would keep score and players would be appreciated equally just for showing up at the Ballpark each day. Photo R. Anderson
If professional baseball was run like some youth leagues no one would keep score and players would be appreciated equally just for showing up at the Ballpark each day.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, everyone would be wearing team jerseys without a player name on the back and cheering equally for everyone from the 12-time All-Star to the 12-year journeyman when they came up to bat.

Of course that is not the case. The stars of the sport get the big contracts, endorsement deals and screaming fans while the rest of the players are just happy to be on the ball club.

That is not to say that all of the other participants on a team are not important. Even the biggest superstars in the sport need a team around them to succeed, but the fact remains certain players on every team rise up above the rest and are appreciated more than their teammates.

While professional sports continues to show that some players are worth more to a team and its fan base then others, amateur sports seem to be going in an entirely different direction.

I am of course referring to the participation medal which has made its way into youth sports. The idea behind a participation medal is that everyone, regardless of talent, should be recognized for their participation in said sport instead of medals only going to a couple of people. Some youth sports have even stopped keeping score in games so that there are no winners or losers at the end of the game.

If one never feels the agony of defeat in life how can they appreciate the highs of success?

A few years back I participated in a 5k event where each person received a shirt and a medal just for showing up. Medals were also available for certain categories once the event started. While I could have just decided that a medal for showing up was good enough, I worked hard, fought through some leg cramps, and was rewarded with a second place medal for my classification.

A few years back I took part in a 5k where everyone who showed up received the medal at the top. I earned the medal at the bottom through hard work and sweat and to me it is much more valuable than the other medal because it is something earned and not just handed to me. To much of society today seems to settle for just the showing up medal. Photo R. Anderson
A few years back I took part in a 5k where everyone who showed up received the medal at the top. I earned the medal at the bottom through hard work and sweat and to me it is much more valuable than the other medal because it is something earned and not just handed to me. To much of society today seems to settle for just the showing up medal.
Photo R. Anderson

This is not being mentioned in any way to toot my own horn or suggest that I am a great 5k athlete. I am not. I was just successful on that particular day and just as easily could have fallen out of contention on any other day.

The point of the story is I tried for more knowing there was a chance that I would not succeed in my quest for a podium finish.

While I understand that some people were happy just getting a medal and a t-shirt, even though I was huffing and puffing at the end of the race, the second place medal I earned felt much better around my neck than if I had just settled for the one everyone else received.

One could certainly spend hours debating whether this move to the philosophy of everyone gets a medal actually creates a weaker society by dulling the competitive edge and rewarding all regardless of level of effort thereby creating a world where no one keeps score and everyone gets orange slices at the end of the game; and many people have. Personally I think the reward everyone approach weakens society and I am very concerned that we will just settle on participating as a way of life.

This country was built on the backs of men and women who did more than just participate. They innovated and they strived to excel in various fields while never settling for good enough and understanding that sometimes failure is an option that one can learn from and come back stronger as a result.

For that example of people doing more than merely participating, and realizing that the juice is worth the squeeze, I will be forever appreciative. I just hope that the spirit of innovation and being willing to fail does not get lost by a generation raised on the philosophy that they will be rewarded just for showing up and someone else will always be there to cut their orange slices for them.

I am sure that the people who chose to put participate on the certificates last weekend had no idea about the debate it would cause, but it certainly was a good stepping off point for some societal retrospection.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly craving some fresh squeezed orange juice.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Two Sides of Sportsmanship on Display This Week

Earlier this week the baseball world was rocked by the news that former National League MVP Ryan Braun basically lied repeatedly regarding his use of performance enhancing drugs. Braun was suspended for the rest of the year and people started wondering whether he could ever regain the respect of the Milwaukee Brewers fans when he does return next season.

Normally this type of admission would carry through for the entire week in the media as the sports world anxiously awaits news of the next stars to fall. But a funny thing happened Wednesday night to help restore one’s faith in the fact that not all of the baseball players are selfish millionaires cheating the system for their own gain.

Of course most rationale people know that there are still many good players taking the field but sometimes it is good to be reminded of such things.

That reminder came in the form of the reaction to a gruesome injury at the New York Mets ballpark that had been the sight of the All Star Game earlier in the month.

The Atlants Braves were dealt a blow Wednesday night when pitcher Tim Hudson broke his ankle. The response after that occurred showed there are still good players left in the game during a week where much of the news centered on suspensions for cheaters. Photo R. Anderson
The Atlanta Braves were dealt a blow Wednesday night when pitcher Tim Hudson broke his ankle. The response after that occurred showed there are still good players left in the game during a week where much of the news centered on suspensions for cheaters.
Photo R. Anderson

While covering first base on a routine play that he had probably done hundreds of times in his career Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson put a little too much of his foot on first base leaving New York Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr little room to avoid contact with Hudson’s outstretched foot.

Young hit Hudson’s foot at full speed causing it to bend at an angle that feet just aren’t meant to bend. Watching the replay of the contact I knew right away that something bad had happened. While it was not necessarily a career ending injury, it was definitely a season ending injury based on what I saw on the replay.

This assessment of the severity of the injury was not based on extensive study in medical school, although I did take a few seminars in sports medicine, but was based on years of covering games where I had seen countless athletes get hurt.

That firsthand knowledge has allowed me to guess with pretty accurate results the type of injuries and even the sound that is made when the injury occurs. One never forgets the sound broken bones and torn tendons make once you have heard them. They are the type of sounds that are truly haunting.

So, right now you are wondering when I will get to the part about the good news and the sportsmanship element of Wednesday night instead of all of the gory details of what did in fact turn out to be a broken ankle that will require season ending surgery.

The element of sportsmanship comes in the reaction of Young after he realized that Hudson was on the ground in pain.

Young, who was ruled out on the play, went right to Hudson’s side and started consoling him. Even after the team trainers and paramedics arrived, a visibly shaken Young stayed by the side of the fallen Hudson.

Young, a professed Christian, could even be seen rubbing the cross on his chain and saying a prayer for Hudson while the medical staff attended to him.

Once Hudson was placed on the golf chart to make the trip around the warning track that no athlete wants to make Young came up to Hudson and shook his hand and said a few words to him before turning to head into the Mets dugout. On the way to the dugout Young could be seen wiping tears from his eyes.

Now, there was nothing dirty about the play and all of the people saying that Young should have done something to avoid contact with Hudson are deeply diluted. Had Young tried to change course it is quite possible that he would have been the one with an ankle injury instead of Hudson. It was just a freak accident that while rare does happen from time to time.

So instead of blaming Young for the injury people should focus more on his reaction. After realizing that a fellow competitor was down Young went to his side. That shows the close knit fraternity of baseball that regardless what team name is on the front of the jersey the good players still help each other out.

There is certainly a time to be competitive with one another but as Young showed there is also a time to be compassionate towards one another.

So while I feel bad that it took an injury of this nature to bring it out, and I certainly join others in wishing Tim Hudson a speedy recovery from his injury, it was nice to see the compassion shown by Eric Young Jr. to help restore my faith in the belief that not all of the players on the diamond are self-centered cheaters like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez have shown themselves to be.

I still want to believe, like the younger version of me did, that ballplayers are by and large good people who can be admired for playing the game the right way but it seems the older I get the harder it is to tell which players are worthy of admiration and which ones should be pitied.

Eric Young Jr. showed he is a player to be admired and hopefully more players took notice and will respond in kind if they are ever placed in the same position.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a trip to the beach to prepare for.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Big Time Fights, They Aren’t Just for Hockey Anymore

The other day I decided to watch the World Baseball Classic game between Mexico and Canada.

Part of the motivation for watching the game was to try to figure out how it was that Team USA lost to the Mexican team the day before. The other motivation was the fact that I had watched Team Canada play in a tournament in St. Petersburg, FL last year.

Members of Team Canada take batting practice during a 2012 exhibition game at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo R. Anderson
Members of Team Canada take batting practice during a 2012 exhibition game at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL.
Photo R. Anderson

So as I settled in to watch the game I knew that while there are Major League Players on each of the rosters, the World Baseball Classic plays by international rules which differ from the MLB rules in some areas.

One of those rules involves running up the score when possible to help the run differential numbers.

In most cases running up the score is frowned upon in sports when the lead is well in hand.

In fact, high school and college games include an 11-run mercy rule to help prevent really lopsided scores.

Back when I covered high school baseball I actually found myself rooting for the mercy rule to come into play many a night.

It wasn’t that I wanted a team to lose by that much, but a shortened game meant that I could get back to the office sooner and in theory get the pages on the press earlier. It did not always work out that way but when it did it was uber nice.

So during the Canada versus Mexico game, and with Canada having a very safe lead late in the game, the lead off batter in the eighth inning for Canada dropped down a bunt and reached safely when the third baseman was late to react.

There was nothing inherently dirty about the bunt. As mentioned earlier, the tournament was set up to encourage teams to score as many runs as possible.

Apparently the third baseman for Team Mexico missed that memo and directed the pitcher to deliver a message to the next better. One international constant in baseball it seems that is understood in every language is the intentional hit batter when a team feels it has been wronged.

So, the pitcher hits the batter in the back, the batter takes offense and starts to charge the mound, and both benches clear and partake in an all out brawl.

Team Canada and the Baltimore Orioles during a 2012 exhibition game. Photo R. Anderson
Team Canada and the Baltimore Orioles during a 2012 exhibition game.
Photo R. Anderson

While not as common as say a fight in hockey, baseball fights do occur now and then. The main catalyst for these fights usually centers on a player getting hit by a pitch.

One of the more absurd elements of these fights for me is the sight of the bullpen pitchers running all the way across the outfield to get to the fight, which in many cases has already ended by the time they arrive to participate.

The fight between the Canadian and Mexican teams was atypical in the fact that it seemed to last a lot longer than most.

Once the teams were finally sent back to their dugouts and the dust had settled, fans of the Mexican team started throwing items into the Canadian team’s dugout. The most glaring of these being a mostly full water bottle that hit one of the coaches in the head.

Fans were ejected and the game was finally able to continue with Canada advancing and Mexico getting eliminated from the tournament.

While I do not go to a baseball game hoping to see a fight, I know that sometimes emotions run high and tempers flare leading to a dust up like the one at the game the other day. What I have no patience or sympathy for is unruly fans or people trying to get in on the action by throwing things onto the field.

For the most part athletes are not looking into the stands, except for Alex Rodriguez trying to get phones numbers, so they are more at risk of not seeing items flying in their direction. These projectiles falling from a long distance can create serious injury.

The fan mob mentality of throwing things is not limited to American soil. Soccer is known for the massive riots that erupt oversees. And many of those riots end with people being killed.

Seriously, people it is just a game. And there will be other ones so there is no need for people to lose their lives over it. Also, in many of those riots it is innocent people that end up paying with their lives over the action of a few.

I have had the opportunity to go to several sporting events that have included Canadian fans, both hockey and baseball. And by and large they are some of the most well behaved and considerate fans I have ever been around in terms of stadium etiquette.

Even when they are “heckling” the other team it seems polite and never rises to the level of personal attacks. Now, I am sure that there are bad Canadian fans, just like there are good and bad fans anywhere, but I have yet to see them.

My point is not to say that fans cannot get emotional about their teams. Quite the opposite healthy passion for one’s team is at the very heart of sports. What I am saying is that it is possible to be passionate and polite at the same time. If you don’t believe me just try sitting next to some Canadians some time.

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about Canada has me in the mood to watch some Bob and Doug McKenzie movies.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson