Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011
Couple of thoughts from the weekend that was in sports. Well, not thoughts so much as opinions.

San Francisco at Detroit

What was a very close and exhilarating game between two teams most recently accustomed to the cellar of their respective divisions should have been remembered for the gutsy performance of the 49'ers pulling out a late victory on the road. Instead the game was spoiled by a near altercation at the end of the game.

Understandably, after guiding his team to an exciting last minute win, on the road, against an undefeated Detroit Lions team that had been stifling teams with an incredible defense, first year head coach Jim Harbaugh was enthusiastically chest bumping and giving congratulations to his team. I am all for exuberance. I rushed the field after the Oklahoma win (and lost my Haloti Ngata diamond plate jersey in the process), but I am not a coach of a professional football team.

Nonetheless, Jim Harbaugh's excitement was completely within the bounds of a young coach after his first big professional win; a comeback win at that. Where I draw the line, though, is the congratulatory handshake that is customary after every NFL game. Sure, you can question the necessity or validity of such a gesture. Maybe it is archaic; maybe it is a waste of time. Still, though, Harbaugh went to shake Detroit Coach Jim Schwartz's hand after the victory, and that is where things got dicey.

From the moment we begin teaching our children about athletics; from the first time they step on the field, on of the most important lessons we teach them is sportsmanship. You need to know how to win, and you need to know how to lose. Neither Harbaugh nor Schwartz seem to remember that lesson very well, and that is a shame.

We often hear columnists and other pundits remind us that athletes should be held to a higher standard; they are role models. Charles Barkley's protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the pundits are right, athletes are the role models our children look up to for how to behave both on and off the field. Young athletes learning the sport should learn that emotion is a part of the game they play, especially football. Celebrate with your team after a great play; a great game; a win.

Coaches, too, fall under this banner. Coaches are role models. But coaches are more than just role models to kids. The coach, you see, is a role model to the kids, to the parents, to the general fans and to the team he coaches. In teaching every player from pop-warner all the way to NCAA football and the NFL, one phrase you will hear a million times over: "act like you've been there before." Each player should never be surprised at their own success, the best players visualize success before it happens. They have been there before.

I know Jim Harbaugh was genuinely excited and was simply looking to celebrate an incredible victory. But he forgot that lesson he has learned and taught since the first day he picked up a ball and threw it; act like you've been there before.

So, he chest bumped his players on the way to his congratulatory handshake. Still, Jim, act like you've been there before. Congratulate Coach Schwartz on a great game and wish him luck. Give him a sincere handshake, and, in case you missed it, my father taught me to look a man in the eyes when you shake his hand; that's how a man handles himself. Shake his hand, walk away, then celebrate some more with your team. Just like you have done countless times before. Both in your mind and in all the other games you've coached. Act like you've been there before.

And, no, Jim Schwartz doesn't escape my condemnation here. When someone comes to you and shows a lack of class or poor sportsmanship, remember what we taught our children, act with class even in the face of classlessness. Never, ever, stoop to the level of those whom you would condemn. If Jim Harbaugh cannot shake your hand like a man and behave in a dignified manner to you, simply walk away. Say your piece and walk away. The moment you chase him down and attempt to start forcing yourself on him, you have lost your own credibility. You have now stepped into the realm of poor loser. Very few teams go undefeated. Only two teams in the post merger NFL have gone through a regular season unbeaten, only one of those went on to win a Super Bowl.

Gentlemen, it is only game six of a sixteen game season; this was not the Super Bowl. No one really won or lost anything other than a single game. Both Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz need to spend a Saturday afternoon watching a pop-warner football game. Watch how eight-year old kids handle the high and low of winning or losing a football game, then learn your lesson from them.

Act like you've been there before.

If you can learn this lesson over again, maybe you can teach it to your respective teams. How are they supposed to act later in the season after a big win or a big loss? Will they behave like their coaches? I sure hope not. It is my hope that the players rise above the poor example of their coaches and act like they've been there before.

Sportsmanship In General

Sportsmanship took another hit in Corvallis over the weekend. Look, I get it, being a fan when your team is losing is not fun; in fact, it sucks. I played collegiately for a team that went winless, it was not the best feeling in the world. We lost one game 59-7... and we felt fortunate to ONLY lose by that score.

But there is absolutely no excuse for what a person (and I use that term very loosely) felt they had a right to do on Saturday. These are college athletes, they put more effort into their university than most students even dream about. To key someone's car because the team you cheer for lost is not even within the realm of sanity.

If the person who did that happens to have the capacity to read, show your face in public; be a man for once in your life and admit what you've done. Only a lowly coward leaves a mark like you did and a note without identifying yourself.

You are not a fan. You are nothing short of a loser with no concept of reality. Get some help.

I am a Duck fan, I make no bones about it. But these are just kids playing a sport we love. We cheer for our respective universities with passion and take joy in victory as well as some anguish in defeat. But having played I can guarantee you that no one cares more about the game than those players. To denigrate their effort in such a cowardly and classless move only proves just what a pathetic excuse for a human being you are.

Now, I cannot provide any funding for the repair of Poyer's car; that would be an extra benefit. But I will support any efforts to make this situation right. Beaver or Duck, they're just kids playing a game. Good luck to Jordan the rest of the season. I sure as hell hope someone can catch the coward. Then again, I doubt it, cowards like him will run and hide int heir mothers basement, get on the internet and ACT tough without ever actually identifying themselves.


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