Every once in a while, one sees or hears about a notable example of sportsmanship at some event, and it seems like such incidents are “notable” simply because they happen.
The era of huge crowds, huge egos, and huge paychecks for grown men who play games for a living has been undergoing profound changes since the pandemic changed a lot of scenarios for sports teams.
Before the COVID-19 plague, occasional demonstrations of decency and humility in sports seemed to be relics from bygone days.
As of now, however, “bygone days” has a different connotation, particularly when attendance at sports competitions is being discussed, as exemplified by the recent Tokyo Olympics. Record athletic accomplishments seemed somewhat “hollow,” for lack of a better tern, as they happened in near-empty stadiums and venues.
That said, there also didn’t seem to be much look-at-me buffoonery by medal winners, which was refreshing (and now-retired G.O.A.T. sprinter Usain Bolt was seen lampooning himself in television commercials). Classy behavior following a win should be the norm, and that pretty much seemed to be the case in late July and early August in Japan.
The Olympics were staged, at the advent of (what will hopefully be a normal) Amerian football season, and I was reminded of a heartwarming local “benevolent conspiracy” that occurred over ten years ago, where a participant who was, er, “learning-challenged” was allowed to accomplish something worthwhile.
Similar incidents have happened at high schools nationwide. Usually, such a scenario involves two high school teams with an upcoming game that is predicted to be one-sided. The challenged player is a member of the underdog team. The coaches from both teams agree in advance that if the contest transpires in the expected manner, the challenged player will be placed in the game at the very end and will be allowed to score a touchdown. Most of us have seen video replays where the challenged player is practically escorted to the end zone by opposing team members.
The incident that occurred in my community was a bit different, as it was a pre-season inter-squad showcase (“Tiger Night”) for teams from elementary school through high school. The conspiracy was actually the idea of other football players.
And the challenged player was actually handed the football on the first play of scrimmage.
“I’d told him to run straight to the goalpost and touch it,” one of the coaches recounted. “Otherwise, he might have just stopped.”
Viewing a replay of the touchdown was fascinating, as some of the players made a show of acting like they were trying to tackle the runner.
And when he crossed the goal line, he spiked the ball.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is sportsmanship at its finest. A wonderful example of the possibilities that organized sports can still sometime offer. Everybody involved in thos memorable moments deserved an “attaboy,” including the player himself. It doesn’t get any better than this, and it was uplifting to see that kind of experience happen locally.
WILLIE G. MOSELEY is the Senior Writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine, and News Editor Emeritus for The Tallassee Tribune. He is presently working on his fifteenth book.