Sportsmanship and gamesmanship: How far is too far? • Nick Nunn
I think that enough time has passed for what I’m about to say to sound like an honest opinion and not the soft-but-unmistakable sound of chewing on sour grapes.
Of course that I’m disappointed that the Morgan County basketball team lost last Saturday in the second round of the state playoffs. There were many in the community that thought that this might be the year they go all the way; I was among them.
It was a bitter pill to swallow when the final buzzer sounded and, looking back to the scoreboard just once more for something we knew wasn’t there, we saw that we had been outdone.
Make no mistake about it: we were outdone by North Hall. They exploited weaknesses that we had shown while under pressure for the entire season and were able to dominate control on both sides of the ball.
That happens. It just does.
What I also saw was what I considered to be unsportsmanlike, if not downright mean, conduct directed at our players by a few of North Hall’s athletes.
And that I cannot abide.
One player in particular – and I couldn’t cite his name if I wanted to, since North Hall doesn’t seem proud enough of their kids to list a roster anywhere on the internet – dogged our players all night.
Tookie Brown showed the patience of a saint against this kid, who looked like he was pushing Brown even as he was trying to defend him on a throw-in.
Of course, he never did anything to earn anything more than a slight reprimand from the referees; his borderline abusive techniques became condoned by the officiating committee.
I am familiar with the concept of “gamesmanship” as opposed to “sportsmanship,” but I don’t think that the Georgia High School Association should turn a blind eye to a team that wants to push the limits of rules designed for the safety of minors for something as ultimately trivial as a basketball game.
Frankly, I question the morals of the coaches at North Hall, who must have seen this type of behavior throughout the season without attempting to make a stand against it.
Yes, I blame the coaches. The parents should be expected to actually have an objective view of their child’s behavior. The fans only care about winning, no matter what the cost. And the young athlete will do anything for a little attention.
It is the coaches’ job to instill some semblance of fair play in the youth under their charge; to make them respect the game, their opponents and, if nothing else, themselves.
How far can a child get in life if they think that it is acceptable to attempt to humiliate another human being for the sake of a game?
This experience has led me to a greater respect for our Morgan County coaches. Never have I seen such a blatant disrespect for an opponent in the eyes of an athlete representing the Morgan County school system.
And I hope that I never will.
Printed in the February 28, 2013