Saturday, June 5, 2010

Why We Love Sports - Part 2

In an earlier post, I discussed how the competition of sports can become sublime. Today, two things reminded me of ways that sports teach us other lessons. First, Peggy Noonan discusses the blown call that cost Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Not the blown call, but the classy manner that Galarraga and umpire Jim Joyce handled the outcome show us how to handle disappointment with grace. From her column:

What was sweet and surprising was that all the principals in the story comported themselves as fully formed adults, with patience, grace and dignity. And in doing so, Galarraga and Joyce showed kids How to Do It.

A lot of adults don't teach kids this now, because the adults themselves don't know how to do it. There's a mentoring gap, an instruction gap in our country. We don't put forward a template because we don't know the template. So everyone imitates TV, where victors dance in the end zone, where winners shoot their arms in the air and distort their face and yell "Whoooaahhh," and where victims of an injustice scream, cry, say bitter things, and beat the ground with their fists. Everyone has come to believe this is authentic. It is authentically babyish. Everyone thinks it's honest. It's honestly undignified, self-indulgent, weak and embarrassing.
We see the opposite of this grace too often, even in Little League, kid's soccer, etc. where the parents are often an embarrassment to the kids.

Coach Wooden's passing, whose giant character dominated the sport of college basketball while he coached, passed yesterday. Dean captures a truth about some of the most inspiring Los Angeles sports figures of the 20th century:
One of the enduring ironies if you are familiar with the Los Angeles sports scene is this: for a culture that is so temporal and is entirely about "the next big thing", trendiness and glamour and which lacks substance of any kind, the three most iconic sports figures, Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and John Wooden were men of faith and family and who plied their respective trades for decades and who did it in a gracious and humble fashion in a land around them where grace and humility are considered completely foreign terms.
Indeed, we notice that character counts, it matters for the long term and the success of those men and their enduring legacy rests not just on their talent but their character.

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