Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sportsmanship

There's a lot of pain in this story, but there is a good side.

Short story: two high school rival teams--schools about 2 1/2 hour drive between them. One team goes to play against the other in a scheduled game, but the mother of the captain of the home team died that afternoon. The game was delayed, and the home team didn't have a full team, what with a grieving captain and friends supporting him, but they started play anyway. The captain showed up in the second period, and asked if he could play. He wasn't in the original line-up, so the referees pointed out that he could play--but it was an automatic technical foul and the visiting team got two free throws. The visiting team was down by two points. Knowing the situation, they tried to decline, but the referees wouldn't let them.

When the visiting team coach asked who wanted to throw the free-throws, the captain of that team said he would. As he was about to walk onto the court, the visiting coach said, "You know you're going to miss, right?" The player nodded. He proceeded to miss both shots--not even near misses. There was no chance either basketball was going to get in the net. In fact, they barely left his hand. The visiting team was applauded by the home team and the fans.

Some might wonder why the referees didn't let the visiting team decline the technical foul. I don’t. The rules are there. We can’t expect referees decide what's an appropriate action for the situation; there’s too much room for argument. Instead, the referees left the sportsmanship up to the visiting team. The visiting team could have taken those two shots and tied the game honestly. They could’ve felt their obligation to sportsmanship was shown by trying to decline the technical foul. Instead, they knew what true sportsmanship was. They couldn't decline the technical foul, but that didn't mean they had to accept their fate, either.

As the coach said: "This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime," Rohlman said. "They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they'll remember what happened in that gym that night."

Sportsmanship is knowing you did the right thing for the right reason. The referees did the right thing: their job is to enforce rules, whether they want to or not. It’s the job of the team and the coaches to decide the right course of action in the situation. These are two rival teams who will respect each other. There will not be accusations of cheating, because they can trust each other to play the game with honor and respect. It’s not winning at all costs--the love of the game comes first.

The visiting team lost, by the way. But I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have it any other way.

Timberwolves update: 18-39 (0-4 since last time, 14-24 since McHale).

Marian Gaborik Injury Status: Players feel that Marian Gaborik healthy could result in more wins.

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