“Sportsmanship, at its core, is acknowledging the validity of the opponents humanity, realizing that your exhilaration comes at the cost of someone else’s despair. Teaching people to respect the feelings of those around you, or even in competition against you, and to not make their suffering worse, is probably one of the most important qualities we can pass down.”
The quote above is from a great piece of writing from Dave Cameron at Fangraphs.com (story contains a bit of questionable language) about a somewhat recent postseason baseball game. The piece is about a particular moment from that memorable game, but it was the quote above that stuck with me well after I read it. It managed to define something that organizations, fans, schools and others often have a hard time defining. Nearly everyone in high school sports talks about sportsmanship and its importance, but so often it gets defined like the famous Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart line about pornography “I know it when I see it.” Everyone knows what bad sportsmanship looks like, but often only after the fact when the bad behavior has taken place.
That’s why that quote jumped out and has stayed in our heads for the past few months and we’ve been looking for a way to incorporate it into a story or post. It’s a thought that expresses so much and is so applicable it struck as a wonderful starting point and foundation for a discussion about sportsmanship. It’s not getting bogged down in semantics about what is or isn’t acceptable behavior from fans, athletes, or coaches — rather it just asks everyone to be mindful of the feelings of others. It’s a sentiment that carries particular weight this time of year.
One of the wonderful things about championships, whether CIAC or League titles, is they are a culmination of effort and hard work. Teams and individuals have battled, scratched, sweated, and clawed to earn that coveted championship. As such the actions of participants and fans during contests and then the celebrations after claiming a title or advancing in the tournament come with extra jubilation. It’s only natural that with greater intensity and stakes attached to the result the feelings for everyone involved will be greater. And those exuberant celebrations are completely expected, justified, and in most cases part of the wonderful experience of CIAC championships. No one is suggesting those celebrations have been out of line or need to be curbed.
It just struck us that at this time of year, when there is so much emotion involved, it was an apt time to share that insightful thought and hope that all the participants in postseason events will have it tucked away in the back of their minds. And keep in mind that this moment when you or your team earned that coveted title, your opponents are dealing with the heartbreak of coming oh so close and falling just short. If everyone involved can find just a bit of compassion in that moment, it will demonstrate the kind of sportsmanship we have come to expect from CIAC championship events.