Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Sunday musings…2/23/2020

Sunday musings…

1) Metrollectual. A city dwelling intellectual. Implies a coastal home address (i.e. not Cleveland). Likely the owner of at least 3 social media accounts. Highly in tune with the zeitgeist but woefully out of touch with the nitty gritty of everyday reality.

Should be a word.

2) Courtesy. “Punctuality is the courtesy of kings.” Louis XVIII. Paul Newman to Fay Vincent who was surprised to see Newman precisely at the time of their appointment

I like that. Reading interviews of celebrities of all sorts you always take note when the author tells you that the celeb showed up on time and prepared. Harrison Ford brought muffins to a Parade Magazine interview.

Makes me vaguely uncomfortable to think of how low the bar is for kings.

3) Miracle. 40 years ago this week. Do you remember where you were when a bunch of college kids took down the best professional hockey team in the world? I can. There was a bunch of us gathered in the little TV room at my Dorm, Tyler House at Williams College. It was pandemonium as you can imagine. I was 20, after all; those guys could have been my classmates.

Last night I watched “Miracle” for the umpteenth time, catching my breath at all of the same places and leaking tears at the end. How hard it must have been for Herb Brooks to cut kid number 21 on the roster. Don’t I remember that Brooks was the last kid cut from the 1960 team that also won the Gold Medal? Such powerful moments.

This particular showing of “Miracle” had a postscript in which Bob Costas interviewed Al Michaels, he of the famous “Do you believe in miracles? YES!” call in that game. Of all the games Michaels has called in his storied career he is clear that the U.S./USSR hockey game was the top memory. I actually know a guy who was in the booth, Pharoo, an acquaintance from Williams who was Michaels spotter for the game. Can you imagine? Not only being there, at the rink, but in the booth with Al Michaels and Ken Dryden?

The very best that sports has to offer. A miracle, indeed.

4) Sportsmanship. “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Anonymous

How many times have you heard this phrase? Whether or not you are/were an athlete. When did you first hear it? Probably like me, super early in your life, maybe even before you picked up a ball or a racket or a whatever. Might have been playing “Go Fish” with my Mom for me, but for sure I first heard it as a 10 year old playing Biddy Basketball at our local YMCA. Respect the game. Play the right way. There are probably as many versions of that old saw as there are old coaches. I vividly remember being dressed down after a Biddy League game that we won because half the kids didn’t touch the ball enough. The right way.

A respect for the rules of any game is instilled in the young in almost every family and on almost every youth team. “Winners never cheat and cheaters never win.” Right? You wouldn’t use loaded dice to beat your grandmother at Monopoly, would you? Of course not. You learn about sportsmanship pretty early, too. About respecting your opponent. Being both a good winner and a good loser. Respect is bestowed upon both beginning at a very young age.

But as soon as you start to play to win, to really try to win, selecting and giving more playing time to the players in your sport who increase the likelihood of victory, you introduce the concept of gamesmanship, and with it the essential tension that exists between sportsmanship and gamesmanship. T-Ball and Dad Pitch baseball gives way to Little League where the score is kept and the standings are published. “Good swing!” from both sides of the field gives way to “Hey Batterbatter. Heeeey Batter. SWING!” Winning matters, and you do whatever you can do to the letter of the rules to win. The only thing wrong with taking advantage of a loophole in the rules is if someone figured it out before you did. This is partly why so many folks dislike Bill Belichek and the Patriots.

People despise Bill Belichek and the Patriots because they not only push the limits of the rules of the game but they also crossed the line. They cheated. They clearly worked under the philosophy that it’s only cheating if you get caught. This, of course, is the reason that the Houston Astros as an organization and the players on the Astros roster during the 2017 season face such universal reproach. At some point they crossed the line between gamesmanship and lawlessness and broke the rules. That they are seemingly without adequate remorse, that they mostly regret that they were caught, makes them that much less in the way of sportsmanship in the eyes of most, including their professional peers.

Did Vince Lombardi really mean it when he said “[w]inning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”? Did he mean that winning by any means, even cheating? Heck if I know. Those Astros are learning that there is a price to pay for cheating. Did you really win that high school tennis match if you cheated on line calls whenever you needed a point? Do you deserve your title if you and your partner sent each other secret signals about what you had in your hand in a Bridge tournament? Whether or not you were caught, at the end of a day or a life you know you cheated.

As a kid I played sports at a mid-level. Medium size schools in high school and Division 3 in college. We wanted to win, for sure. It doesn’t matter whether you have 200 students or 2000, you still want to win. I never remember cheating at anything. I’m not sure I ever wanted to win anything more than a member-guest golf tournament I played in with my brother after the club pro insinuated that we would fudge our handicaps. We played angry, fire in every step over 3 days, but we played at our legit handicaps as the rules demand. Not only did we not break a single rule on the course we also putted out on each hole, sinking even 6″ putts so that there was no possible chance that we would be accused of bending, let alone breaking a rule.

Winning is important, but how you win in games is still more important.

The lesson to be learned from the MLB Astros fiasco (and the never-ending Patriots imbroglio) is that the rules matter. Gamesmanship is OK but only to a point. How you play still matters. Sportsmanship still matters. It is not necessary to like your opponent, not even a little bit. But one should respect an opponent who also plays within the rules and respects both the game and you. These are the things that my Dad, my Grandfather, and all of my best coaches taught from the beginning. What I told my kids when they began competing. These are the things we need to hear from MLB.

This is what I will tell my grandchildren if I am blessed to have the chance.

I’ll see you next week…

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