Sportsmanship dies in a one man takes all society

By Catharine Hernson
September 19, 2002

I can’t beat you one-on-one. I’m not faster than you. I’m not stronger than you. But I am smarter than you. I was taught to play the right way, with a team. Get me out on the floor or down at the park with a couple other people. I don’t care who. They can be short or tall, old or young, fat or skinny, athletic or not. It doesn’t matter just give me someone to play with and I’ll school ya in some basketball.

There is something about team sports that just shouldn’t be messed with. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to teach kids to play ball without a partner, but they messed up. We lost sportsmanship. Kids need to learn how to pass again. They should look up to players like Jason Kidd, Mike Bibby and Sue Bird, who all know how to put the ball in their teammates’ hands. It is not always in your best interest to shoot or to drive the lane. Sometimes someone else has a better look at the basket or has a mismatched defender. There is an art to team play that has been lost in the era of the I’m-better-than-you-are-and-I’m-going-to-score-to-prove-it game.

This is not an ailment that plagues only basketball it’s just where it is most apparent. It happens in football and hockey and soccer and you name it it’s there. For example, Keyshawn Johnson wrote a book while playing for the New York Jets titled “Just Give Me the Damn Ball.” The struggling Jets’ offense was in desperate need of a savior according to Johnson. He was, of course, just the man to do it. That kind of attitude does not fair well in the locker room no matter who you are. Johnson got traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two seasons later.

Another fine example is Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers. Ok, maybe he doesn’t have a lot of attitude, or even think he is the only player on the team, but the Rangers thought he was. They pay him over $20 million dollars a year to play a game for kids. For some reason a baseball team felt that one player could come in and make their perennially almost good team better. But apparently money doesn’t win baseball games. The Rangers have one of the highest payrolls in the league and have not made the playoffs in two years.

One good athlete cannot win in a team sports environment. It is just not possible. One excellent player cannot beat five or nine or 11 good players. And there is really no reason that any one person should be praised so much that they think they can single handedly win championships.

If all these professional athletes would just take a look at themselves with the eyes of a 10 year old they would just laugh. They get to play a game all day long and make more money than God doing it. Make friends with the people you have to play with, it makes life so much better. Give the ball to the kid riding the pine one day, you might find he’s got a decent shot, or maybe that he’s a smart player who can get the ball to the guy with the great touch. Just chill, don’t take it so seriously. It’s a game that you get paid to play.

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Catharine Hernson

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