Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bad Sports

Are you as fed up with the examples of bad sportsmanship that were churned out at this Olympics?

Perhaps this go-round wasn't any worse than other Olympic years, but I actually sat down and watch a good chunk of these Olympics and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

To start off, I wanted to board a train, hop off at Pacific Coliseum and personally flick Plushenko on the ear for his descent into bad sportsmanship. What a way to end a brilliant career - to become the whiny baby. "But I did a Quad! They promised me!"

Right. I forgot. First rule of skating is "Come out of Retirement because your Country is hard up for Talent, and the World will grovel at your feet". Second rule is - "You get to make up the rules". Strange, I thought it was "Land your jumps gracefully, instead of having to hang on to every one of them, and the judges will reward you with points."

Just in case you think I'm being anti-Russian and pro-American here, let me pull out my next complaint - the American Women's ski team debacle.

Jeeze Louise, girls! Get a grip!
I went back and forth about who I felt was being slighted, but finally I just tossed both Vonn and Mancuso out the back door. Mancuso's histronics when she had to do her run again and then failed miserably were something I expect to see in Nursery, not in a sporting competition.

Finally, there was Team USA today, taking the silver in Hockey.
Have you ever seen such bitterly disappointed faces? Such hang-dog expressions. Such woe and self-flagellation for the camera! Oh golly, we got silver. Boo hoo!
Suck it up boys! Smile and move on.

OK, maybe I'm being hard on people, but I did see so many GREAT examples of sportsmanship, that these bad ones really stuck in my craw.

Did you catch the Four Man Bob Sled event? The leaders would stand in the winning area, jumping around and happy, and as they were knocked out of contention they didn't tear their numbers off or sob - no, they smiled, waved to the crowd stepped aside for the winners.

How about the Ariel Ski Jump competition? There was this cool little reception spot at the bottom of the hill, with big waterproof beanbag chairs for the top three leaders. When a new guy bumped someone off the leader board, the loser immediately congratulated the winner, shook hands and left with a wave to the crowd.

Then there was the Men's Nordic Combined event. I found the whole thing amazing.
The conditions went from pretty good to downright poor during the second run of the ski jump. The leaders suddenly found themselves turning in awful jumps simply because of the wind and snow. This meant they were docked time and had to start up to a full minute behind their competitors in the cross country portion of the competition.

You didn't see any of these athletes whining or demanding a new jump, even though the group with the awful times included some of the best jumpers in the world. Nope, they just ponied up and did their job.

Now that is being a good sport.

I competed in several beauty pageants during high school and college. At the close of the competition everyone stands on stage and the Master of Ceremonies reads off the winners names with lots of drama. When this happens you face the audience, head held high, and put on your biggest smile, no matter what happens.

I always seemed to get Second Runner Up, so I know how it feels to have your heart sink right down into your three inch high heels when your name is called as a runner up and you suddenly know that you lost. But even in pageants, sportsmanship is the rule.

You don't fall down on the stage and beat your fists against the red carpet. You don't tear up the bouquet you've been handed and stomp off stage. You don't argue that your rousing rendition of "The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck" should trump her keyboard fusion of Jazz and Mozart. That's not how it's done. You keep smiling, no matter what, and then you give your heartfelt congratulations to the winner, even if you really, really hate that ugly purple dress she's wearing.

Admittedly, being a good sport sometimes means biting your tongue and putting on an act. But that's what being adult and civilized is about - not giving into your childish emotions, and learning to accept downturns with grace. That's a tough life lesson, but one that we need to teach our children, early on, and one that we should recognize and reward whenever we see it. It's too bad that the biggest Olympic athletes can't be bothered to help us teach this.

A gold in Sportsmanship? Not such a bad idea.
Even beauty pageants select a good sport to be crowned Miss Congeniality, and that's not an honor to be taken lightly.


Hoppers said...

Oh, but let's hear it for Apollo! He's one class act. He could have argued, but instead, he said that's the way it goes sometimes.
Gotta respect that guy.
Thanks Heather, once again for bringing it all in. Your writing is so much fun to read!

Christy Wheeler said...

I agree! I was so fed up with the woman's ski team! Hopefully they improve their attitudes for the next olympics!

time for... said...

I was amazed that sooo many people who received silver acted like they were about to throw the medal away! Don't they know how good a silver is?