April 30, 2008

A Misconception of Sportsmanship

My mother sent me this story, finding it inspirational. I think it's ridiculous.

Here's the short version, courtesy of NBC Sports. A Western Oregon University softball player hit a three-run homer, giving her team the lead against Central Washington. Rounding first, she had a freak knee injury. If she doesn't cross the plate, her run doesn't count. Her choices were to be called out or to stop at first, taking a single, and then having a pinch runner take her place. Adding to the sissy Oprah drama, the girl is a senior who had never hit a home run and this is the last regular season game.

blahblahblah These girls would have waited for Japan to get the bomb too

So what do the Central Washington girls do? If they lose they don't make the playoffs. Their season is over, and their own seniors have played their last game. Two of the CWU girls pick the injured girl up and carry her around the bases, allowing her to touch each base and score. Central Washington loses.

First question: Why didn't the girl crawl around the bases? That's the kind of gritty bad-assery we can understand. The ball cleared the fence. She had unlimited time.

Second question: How is helping your opponent beat you fair to the eight girls on the field who DID NOT participate in their own demise?

Third question: Could you EVER imagine this happening in a men's game at the college level or above? If Wes Welker, generally considered a good guy, were streaking down the sideline with no one able to catch him, but he trips and falls or catches a cleat, could you imagine an NFL player explaining after the game that he didn't touch him down because he "deserved" the touchdown? When Larry Walker handed the ball to a fan with only two outs, can you imagine an opposing player explaining that he didn't score the game-winning run because it wouldn't be fair?

Case in point: the above image is the a sportsmanship monument on the campus of Florida State University (insert joke here). What can we learn from this statue? The player standing is saying "Sorry I ripped your helmet off, but the play is over so I will help you up and return your helmet." THE PLAY IS OVER. Sportsmanship is not charity within the play of the game. It's treating your opponent with respect. There's a huge difference. It is NOT sportsmanlike to let someone score. It's degrading to the recipient of your mercy.

One thing I know for sure is that sportsmanship does not mean you correct instances of bad luck that affect the other team. "Oh, Tom Brady slipped in the shower and got hurt this morning so we're going to bench Peyton too. It's only fair." Whatever happened to "tough shit"? Aren't sports supposed to teach us life lessons? Is there a more important life lesson to learn than that sometimes we all get screwed?

The obvious answer is that these girls weren't playing with the ultimate goal of winning the game. That's acceptable at a children's level, when there are other concerns such as making sure all the kids get to play and teaching lessons about life and sports. That's not really understandable at a collegiate level. It's less understandable to me because I've been around some female collegiate athletes at Maryland. The girls I knew wanted nothing more than to win their volleyball match, lacrosse game or basketball game. So it's not just a male-female thing. Is it a big-time college v. small-time college thing? Can someone help me understand this?

29 Responses:

Russell said...

It's D-II softball. I really think it is just about having fun and hanging out with the team (like kiddie sports). If that one game kept them out of the playoffs, how far would they have gone in the playoffs anyway?

Keep in mind that one of the better D-III football programs plays every player on the roster in every game (some team in Minnesota or Wisconsin). That includes the playoffs. I'm sure the dregs aren't as good as the starters, but that's not really what D-II or D-III is all about.

Nic said...

Don't be dissing D II schools. I'm going to a DII school in the fall, and I know a lot of the athletes there and they are competitive, we won the Gulf South basketball division this year, small shout out.

I think it's because those softball teams were from the Western States, and people are always more charitable over there.

Jeremy said...

Shout out to Delta State in the house. Which state's delta is Delta State located in?

big tuna said...

Are you kidding me? This is the most moronic post I have ever read. They weren't "letting someone score". Your comparisons aren't even close to similar to this instance. If this story was about a girl hitting a game-winning single and blowing out her knee thus not being able to make it to first but the opponents didn't throw her out instead helping her to first then your stupid Wes Welker and Larry Walker comparisons would work. But the game was essentially over when she hit the home run. Running around the bases are just a formality. I'll take a stab at your questions anyway some with another question:

Question 1: What would you think of the girls standing on the infield watching her crawl around the bases?

Question 2: I think most reasonable people can agree that they were not helping the opponent beat them. They were already beat. Who wants to win because the girl hitting the game winning home run on the other team couldn't make it around the bases by chance?

Question 3: Your examples are horrible. The game is over once the ball goes over the fence. There is no defense that can be played to stop that run from scoring. If the same thing happened in D1 softball or baseball or the MLB I would not be suprised. I would almost expect it. Just think about it. I can't see your beloved Orioles heading to extra innings because ARod couldn't make it to home plate on his walk off.

I am sure these gals wanted to win but not like that.

big tuna said...

I have to disagree with some of the comments too. D-II and D-III teams want to win just as much as D-I. In high school when I played freshmen baseball I didn't want to win less than the varsity team. When I played intramurals I still badly wanted to win.

Russell said...

I wasn't trying to imply that they don't want to win, just that the bigger picture of life and relationships with others steps in more often than in D-I where everyone thinks they're going pro and will do absolutely anything to make themselves look better for the scouts (I'm cynical today and most days). The NCAA commercials about athletes going pro in something other than sports are actually true for lower division athletes, most of whom (HOPEFULLY) are in school to get an education first, and play sports second.

Also, as I understand it, the game was not "over" when the HR was hit. It was in the second inning or so, and both teams scored later in the game.

big tuna said...

Yeah, I see that now. I assumed it was at the end. Doesn't really change anything. The game wasn't over when she hit is but the run was scored when she hit it. Running around the bases was a formality.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that if Barry Bonds shredded his knee on his 756th home-run, then his HR shouldn't have counted because he couldn't run the bases thereafter?

As far as I'm concerned, once the ball is ruled a HR, the runs are automatically scored. Running the bases is just a formality, as previously stated.

These girls were not only respected their opponents, but they also respected the game with their gesture.

How would we perceive these girls had the HR been discounted and they had edged out a win? I would think of them as cheaters. They didn't earn the win, they stole it.

I have all the respect in the world for these athletes. They represented themselves with dignity and class as they should have. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

The game wouldn't be over anyway because the run does not score until the player touches home plate. Every player on base at the time must cross home or it would be an out for each runner leaving the base path and no run scored.

World of Isaac said...

What happened to being a decent human being?

Are we so blurred by competition in sports that helping an injured player becomes an afterthought?

How embarrassing it would be if that girl crawled around the bases while the other team stood around and watched her suffer?

Josh R said...

Obviously, the author of this blog is the kid who struck out or dropped an endzone pass to lose the game. He needs to get a life.

The only examples he can bring up are those of professional athletes. Professionals' jobs are to win. College -- errrr, STUDENT-athletes -- are in school to get an education, ESPECIALLY at D-2 and D-3 institutions.

As a former athlete myself, I could never take a win in such a manner. Rules are rules, but life isn't all about winning. Wars are fought every day, so why should we care so much about a team who helped itself lose? There's bigger things going on in the world.

Jeff V said...

It is always bad defense when you help an opponent score. I don't care how you slice it.

If this was a walkoff home run and the other run that it brought in already won the game than i could understand the sympathy but other than that I think the Girl should have crawled. That would be sooo much more badass.

Furthermore, running the bases is not a formality there have been major league hitters that hit the ball over the fense and as they were running home from third base they were mobbed by their teammates (and the runners on base scored to win) and since they never touched the plate they were only credited with a triple.

Anonymous said...

Weak premise. Weak arguments.

Someone should carry you back to bed and type a well-thought article for you next time in the name of sportsmanship.

It's common decency to help someone who cannot walk, to pick someone up who has fallen, to care for the injured... happens in football, baseball, basketball, and hockey all the time.

J-Red said...

It does matter that the incident occurred in the second inning. People who say "it's a home run as soon as it clears the fence" are wrong. There are rules in place for just this happening.

Watching the girl crawl around the bases would not be demeaning. It actually would have provided for a grand standing ovation opportunity. Just as there is the agony of defeat in the Wide World of Sports, there is the agony of victory. Watch a marathon.

It is a show of good sportsmanship to help an injured player of the field, or to their feet. They certainly could have helped her back to first base and then off the field. She didn't complete the play. If you help her complete the play, you are demeaning her accomplishment. "Remember that home run you hit?" "Well, I actually hit a single but the other team handed me a home run because they felt sorry for my injury."

I'm still not seeing the distinction between so many other examples of bad luck costing a team a win or extending a game and this. Jack Cust slipped and fell in the third baseline while basically walking home to win a game for the Orioles. You don't think he was tagged out? There is a tough shit principle in sports and in life.

Anonymous said...

You people are a bunch of pussies. If the goal isn't to win then why play the fucking game to begin with? Being humane is fine, but helping the other team win? Let's go play some T-Ball while we're at it and not keep score.

And running the bases isn't a goddamned formality. If you can't touch home, it isn't a run scored you moron. Look up some rules before you act like you know.

J-Red said...

Dictionary definition of sportsmanship: fairness in following the rules of the game.

Where in the rules of softball does it say that a player should be assisted around the basepaths if he or she cannot complete the play on their own?

Brien said...

I agree with J-Red an the Anonymous who said "tough shit." Sportsmanship is clapping when an injured player is helped off the field, not helping that player score.

And running the bases isn't a formality. It's part of the rules.

e said...

Maybe they didn't want to wait around while she crawled the bases and got a standing o?? If she was just gonna crawl home anyways, why not speed things up? I don't see why all of your collective panties are in a bunch over this.

michael said...

To all of you who said it is automatically a home run and the runs automatically score once the ball goes over the wall...you all are wrong, and J-Red is right. Remember when Robin Ventura played for the Mets a few years ago, and he hit the walk-off "grand slam" in extra innings of a 3-3 game? Well, he was mobbed at first, and never even reached second base. And officially, he was not credited with a grand slam, or even a home run. Since he only reached first, the official score was an RBI single, and the final score was 4-3. Running the bases on a home run is not a formality, it is a required necessity! I am shocked that nobody has mentioned this one yet.

big tuna said...

You guys are stuck on this formality thing. Of course you still have to round the bases and touch home plate for the run to count but once the ball goes over the fence, there is no more work to be done. There is no defense that can be played to stop the run from scoring.

You can't compare this to another play in baseball or another sport because there isn't a similar example where someone is allowed to score without any threat of defense (unless maybe you are talking about a game against the Denver Nuggets).

The Cust play is not the same. While he had a clear path to home plate defense was still being played to prevent him from scoring. Can't you guys see the difference? I can't even believe there are people who think like this.

With your completely literal view of a home run, how would Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard Round the World sound if you called the game? I assume something like this:

"There's a long drive... it's gonna be, I believe... It is over the fence. Thomson rounds first and is headed to second. He hits second and is on his way to third. He rounds third and... and... THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! Bobby Thomson touches all of the bases including home plate after hitting the ball into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they're goin' crazy, they're goin' crazy! HEEEY-OH!!!"

Or would you just call it after it left the park?

J-Red said...

There are a few defenses to a home run that's already left the park.

1) Missed a base
2) Passed a runner on the basepaths
3) Illegal equipment (pine tar)
4) Ball hit something in play first
5) Runner never completed trip around the basepaths.

J-Red said...

6) Fan interference
7) Fair v. foul

big tuna said...

What? Those aren't defenses. There is nothing a DEFENDER can do to stop the person from scoring.

I like your numbers 4 and 7. Those wouldn't even be called a home run. You might as well have included "Ball caught by a fielder" or "Batter swings and misses"

J-Red said...

1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are affirmative defenses. Yes, the ball left the park in fair play but no, it's not a home run.

Sarah said...

The uninjured softball players behaved in the only way they could, given that they had an audience present to gauge their moral compass. Everyone's on their best behavior when they're being watched.

"ben" said...

J-Red, while I don't have a beef with your main point, your comparisons don't make any sense.

The closest real life comparisons I can think of are George Brett or the Merkel Boner (no, he was not sexually aroused). In those instances, the opposing teams went out of its way to try to discount the runs being scored, which of course speaks to your main point.

However, even those examples don't account for the emotional and human element that is critical to this particular story.

I'm not offended by the sportsmanship, as you seem to be. There actually are examples of professional athletes laying down for someone else (literally, in the case of Favre and Strahan) though I'm sure not at crucial times in crucial games.

Nic said...

Jeremy: Delta State is located in Cleavland, Mississippi and is also part of the Gulf South conference. Go CBU!

Justin said...

Ha Jason you never fail to rile one up. The funny thing is I honestly think if you were put into the same situation you would have most likely have offered to carry the batter around as well. On the other hand if you were the one who blew out their knee you would love crawling around those bases and would murder anyone trying to help you.

Sure its a game and they wanted to win but I think you are greatly discounting the amount of good feelings which come from doing something like this. If you wish to keep your cynical view on things then they didn't help her to help her but to make themselves look good.

I agree that shit happens in life and in games but one need not let that make one an asshole.

Nic said...

Hey, ESPN did a special on this on Sports Center tonight. She made it to first base, was about to go to second, tore her ACL, crawled back to first. The umpires told the girls coach that they couldn't send in a sub, and if any of her teammates touched her (carried her) none of the runs would have counted. So a girl from the other team asked if they could carry her, the ref was cool with that because he didn't know of a rule against it. So carry her they did. However, now the NCAA is saying they do allow subs in if a player is hurt on a out of ball park hit. So again it all falls back on a Ref. Now we can all blame the REF for what some think is the lack of Competitiveness. I love blaming Refs.

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