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Be of good cheer and good sports this year

POSTED: December 21, 2013 12:00 p.m.

There was something strange to me about wrestling that I did not know until I attended the tournaments I have been to in the last few weeks. Before every match, the wrestlers have to shake hands with each other. You know what, I like that. I get it. It’s quick, it’s easy, let’s wrestle.

But after the match, when one of them has lost and the other has won, each wrestler must go over and shake hands with the opposing coach.

Again, this is not some trend that wrestlers tend to do. Every match I have seen in those few tournaments, when possible, both wrestlers would go over and shake hands with the opposing coach. They just do it.

That struck me as odd at first. You know, those guys are tired. They’ve just spent six minutes or more, some of them, trying to push around another guy about their size. That’s hard work, you know.

I can imagine that most of them are exhausted and probably just want to sit down. A few of them may be embarrassed or upset with themselves after losing, not that they should be. Yet they still do it.

It struck me as an odd inconvenience, in a way, but let me tell you something else I saw. I saw opposing wrestlers helping each other up. When one guy would pin the other, he would still help the kid up off the mat.

If a guy fell down trying to make a move, his opponent would still help him up.

This is not unique to wrestling, but wrestling is the most recent example I’ve seen of this. Football players are always seen grabbing guys by the hand and picking them up, many right after they just tackled the same guy to the ground.

Why is that?

Well, it’s sportsmanship. It is not just good sportsmanship, because good sportsmanship can be accomplished by lining up after the game and shaking hands and saying, "Good game," with half a smile. That’s good sportsmanship.

What you see described here is excellent sportsmanship. Where does excellent sportsmanship come from?

First, let’s switch the discussion around a bit and see where it isn’t coming from. I was watching the UGA vs. Georgia Tech football game this year and I noticed a lot of this excellent sportsmanship from the athletes on the field. Even in such a bitter, often chippy rivalry, there is still excellent sportsmanship on the field.

My dad went and shot pictures of the game (check them out on our website…shameless plug) on the sidelines, and he came back telling me how rough some of the fan comments he heard were. If you were there, or if you’ve ever been to a football game or if you’ve ever been on social media after a football game, you know what I’m talking about.

I once saw a man push a child over in anger during a rivalry game. The kid was his own son.

Yes, it was at last year’s Georgia vs. Georgia Tech game. No, I won’t tell you which side the man was cheering for and which side the boy was cheering for because, honestly, it doesn’t matter.

As fans of these teams, we can sometimes get carried away. Treating any of your fellow human beings with such utter disregard is never acceptable, and especially not over a sporting event.

So why, then, is it easier for the athletes who pour their blood, sweat and tears into the game and who expend so much effort for the sole purpose of winning the game to show sportsmanship to their opponent?

That’s precisely why. Because of the effort. Because of the heart and emotion poured into the game.

These players have something that we fans should learn a little about and that’s mutual respect.

Mutual respect. They know how much the opponent is putting into the game and their performance because they themselves have put just as much hard work and heart into winning the game.

If you’ve read the book or seen the movie "Ender’s Game," there is a similar concept at play. The title character, Ender, says something to this effect. "As soon as I understand my enemy, that’s when I can beat him. That’s also when I love him."

Forgive me my nerdy moment of the week, but I hope you can hear a truth in there.

The athletes know how much work they put into winning the game, so they know how much work their opponent put into it. With that level of understanding comes a new level of mutual respect.

So how can we benefit from that as fans? Consider this. Though you may not have put in the same effort as the athletes, you probably feel like you’ve put a lot of your heart and your passion into the game and into supporting your team.

Well, so has that guy. Yes, that guy, the one over there in the body paint and whose yelling is getting on your nerves. So has that fan who just posted a tirade on your preferred social media site.

They all have put as much heart and fire into loving their team as you have. So consider that when you get ready to lambast them for their fanhood. Consider how much it pains you to deal with the hecklers and the naysayers, and maybe go a little easier on your enemy this time around.

It is the Christmas season, after all. Show good tidings and good sportsmanship. Show excellent sportsmanship. I hope you learn to understand your enemy this Christmas season, and when you do, choose to love them.

Choose to respect them.

 

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