Out Here in Left Field

Published 3:32 pm Friday, January 28, 2011

“I believe I can lose without acting the fool. I believe I can win without bragging.”

–         Eddie Robinson

It was obvious Eddie Robinson could do those things. He was a great teacher and a great coach.

Can we still? My answer is obvious – of course we can, if we so choose.

The problem is that too often we don’t choose to do either. There are too many times when victory is accompanied by a bunch of “look at me” and losing brings about pointing fingers.

Over the course of the last several years, I have grown increasingly aggravated by the lack of sportsmanship I see locally. In an area where I used to be proud of every one of our teams, it seems many of them are slipping from the plateau of good sportsmanship.

Frankly, it all-too-often starts in the stands. Fans have become increasingly atrocious in their behavior. They often instigate the things that happen on the court by making a fever pitch inside a gym or other athletic venue.

Sometimes parents forget that when they are supposed to set the example if they want their children to behave in a dignified manner.

A few years ago, one of my coworkers overheard a parent tell her friend that she didn’t care who won the game; all she was concerned about was  how many points her child scored.


Is that what we’re teaching young people now. Are we really teaching them that individual achievement is more important than contributing to the success of the team. I hope not.

Team sports should be about that – team. It should be each individual working as a unit to make the team better: the whole being better than the sum of its parts.

That’s what children and young people need to be learning. Stats take care of themselves if you win or lose.

It also seems that many times fans, players and sometimes even coaches have started to view the other team as the enemy rather than the opponent. That’s a crying shame.

Some of the best games I’ve coached in was when I was locked up with a coach I liked and respected. I wanted to beat them for sure, but I looked forward to the communication between us afterwards – win or lose.

When I was in high school, we wanted to beat Ahoskie High every time we played them, but we didn’t hate them. We were friends who battled on the field and then hung out afterward no matter who won.

Earlier this week I was in one of our local gyms when parents in the stands started heckling a player on the court – at a high school game. Yes, grownups were in the stands yelling at a teenager.

If you think this is acceptable, let me come and yell at your precious youngster and see how you like it. I’m willing to bet you’ll hit me in the face 30 seconds into the verbal barrage.

It isn’t too late to turn around the tide of bad sportsmanship locally or nationally. We just have to take seriously our dedication to doing what’s right and teaching that to the young people of our region.

I hope we do.

Thadd White is Sports Editor and Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or by telephone at 332-7211.