I read recently where a girl’s basketball game had a final score of 107-2. And of course, with that, the pundits have all come out of the wood work declaring it unfair and unsportsmanlike to beat an opponent by that margin.
I’d like to propose a modest new rule regarding sportsmanship: Screw it.
You heard me. I’m done with it. Sports are essentially done for competition and entertainment. The athletes participate at an amateur level to either improve themselves in preparation for turning pro or to compete against like-minded athletes. Professional athletes…it’s their job. They get paid.
What would sportsmanship look like in that girl’s basketball game anyway? Stop trying to score when you’re up by 30? By 50? Do you try and let the other team score somehow? Is losing by 50 any worse than losing by 105?
Of course not. And this is coming from a guy who has participated in his share of lopsided sports contests, on both sides. It’s not fun, but it’s also not permanent. The game ends, and for those girls who participated in the game, it’s probably over in their minds within minutes. It wasn’t for any type of championship or trophy. It was a game.
But at the end of the day, in sports contests of any kind that pit team versus team, the rules are simple. I’m going to try and score, and your job is to try and stop me. End of story. If you can’t do that, then either quit or try harder. Sportsmanship isn’t about the score. Sportsmanship is about helping someone up off the ground when they get knocked down, or congratulating them on a good game after it’s over. It’s not about limiting what you do on the scoreboard simply to make it less embarrassing for the other team.
I love hearing great stories about sportsmanship, don’t get me wrong. There was that softball game where one of the players hit a game-winning home run but as she was rounding the bases, she injured her knee, and some players from the other team took sympathy on her and carried her around the bases, touching her foot to each base, including home plate, so she could get the home run and the win.
What would’ve happened if they would’ve said, “You know what? If she can’t round the bases, it’s not a home run, and we win. Leave her alone, girls.” Sure…probably would’ve never made the news. You would never have heard about it. And that’s a special circumstance, and I get why they helped her, but that’s what I’m talking about.
It’s not about being callous or mean…it’s not about not respecting your opponent or recognizing that they are people just like you. It’s about the rules of the game you’re playing. Most games, the point is to score, and the defense has to stop you. If they can’t, that’s tough luck for them. Period. I’ll shake your hand at the end of the game and tell you “Good game”, but before that clock reads 0:00, I’m going at you full-steam. Try and stop me.