25 September 2009

Mockery of -- and through -- Sportsmanship

Going to the Mat | Honor, Humility and Sportsmanship

Stories like this one always make me feel proud and hopeful for the future.
Thamail Morgan took the kickoff and headed up the field.

He was at the 20 ... 30 ... 40

He had been avoiding, dodging or just simply running through tacklers on the way. Football always had come easily for Morgan. This game was no different. By the time he hit midfield, only open space was ahead of him. The two-time Arkansas all-state selection was headed for a touchdown.

40 ... 30 ... 20

He glanced at the clock and saw the final seconds ticking away. He realized his team, Cave City, was on the way to a victory over Yellville-Summit, comfortably ahead, 34-16. He also realized two other things: This wasn't an ordinary game. And he wasn't the same Thamail Morgan.

When he reached the 2, he stopped. He took a few steps back and took a knee at the 5-yard line.

[...]

"I did not tell him to kneel down, he did it on his own," Bradley said. "I did not expect them to kick it to him. I figured they would kick away, because he has the ability to break away. I did not know that he was going to do what he did. He broke tackles, ran sideline to sideline, and got to the 2, and just stopped. That is when he backed up and took a knee on the 5-yard line."

Morgan did not do this completely on his own.

"We were on the sidelines yelling for him not to score," Bradley said. "Some of the players on the field were saying it, too. But I'm not sure how much he could have heard all of it."

He heard it, Morgan admitted. But he didn't need to.

"Before the game, we as a team talked about being classy,'' he said. "We did not want to come out in a game like this and not show any class.
That's so patronizing.

Am I the only one that would be infinitely more insulted by someone refusing to score rather than "running up the score" against me? I would be furious with a guy for doing that on the field. It's far more insulting to be beat narrowly by someone who isn't really trying than to be beat badly by someone who is. When you step onto the field you deserve the best competition the other guys have in them. Your opponent giving you something less because he doesn't think you can handle it? That's an open affront. That's what you do when you're playing against young children, and even they usually see through it and hate it.

Those kids are forever going to remember this as the game in which some hot shot kick returner pitied them and deigned not to score a final touchdown. People who only read the box score may think "Oh, they only lost by 18 and not 25. Good for them." The guys on the field know they were granted clemency. The guys on the field know that their opponents didn't respect them enough to keep trying. Obviously you don't want to loose, and you don't want to loose badly, but you also don't want pity.

If the coach is so damn classy, why did he have this powerhouse returner in the game in the first place? (And don't they have a ball-control return play for the four minute drill and such? One with a blocking plan designed to maintain possession and not rack up yards?) If he was so concerned with being "classy" he should have put the scout return team in. In my book putting in the second string is the only semi-respectable way of showing a soon-to-be-defeated opponent mercy.* Everything else is just a self-aggrandizing, ostentatious power trip.


* That's still a little insulting, but that's counterbalanced by the good it does for the second stringers to get some action.

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