THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
In my days of being a professor and being in charge of athletic bands, one of the more unfortunate sights was attending a women's basketball game at home during the regular season. It was unfortunate because the crowds were never that large, and thus, the level of excitement was lacking.
Now, I've gone on record as having problems with collegiate athletics, the NCAA, and many similar things, and I stand by those comments. That being said, with the love our country has for college basketball, it was sad that only the men got the fans. Some of the most entertaining games I attended were women's games. And if you take the college aspect out of it, it would have been nice to see more support for the ladies in any form. It shouldn't be a gender issue.
But then, incidents like the one between UNLV and Utah State in early January occur, and you see that other parts of the country do take women's college basketball seriously...perhaps too seriously.
During the game in question, a fight broke out between two players that led to eight total ejections. It was during the third quarter when UNLV's Katie Powell and Utah State's Antoina Robinson got into it. Not only were those two ejected, but three other members from each team were ejected for leaving the bench, totalling four ejections per team.
According to the post-game interviews, Powell went on record claiming that Robinson was playing dirty all game. When one of Powell's teammates was fouled, she had finally decided to tell Robinson to tone it down, which led to Robinson instigating the fight. If you get a chance, watch the video since it tells it all.
I'm not making excuses for any of the ejected players, but there are a few things to take from this fight...
First, unless there was something else unreported, this fight is clearly Robinson's fault. I don't know this lady, but the fact that she would play dirty, then follow up with a fight shows what type of character she has. She should be ashamed of herself.
That's not to excuse Powell, who probably could have handled things better. But if you are looking to dissect the incident, place the blame on Robinson, not Powell.
Further, it's tough to criticize the ejected players for leaving the bench. UNLV coach Kathy Olivier said it best post-game when she said she never taught her players not to leave the bench in such incidents because she thought they simply wouldn't occur. Olivier took blame for that, but she should be lauded. To accept the responsibility of something that should have been a non-factor is admirable; to hope that these situations would never arise is worthy of a tip-of-the-cap for optimism. I'm sure there is an ensuing counterargument that says Olivier should have taught this to her players, but the big picture says otherwise.
Finally, the big goat in all of this is Utah State. In researching the incident, UNLV made their players and coach available for comment regarding the incident. UNLV's web site (for their women's basketball team) even included the unfortunate incident in their game wrap-up. In short, they didn't hide from it.
Utah State, however, did.
There was no mention of any interview with any Utah State personnel. What's worse is that Utah State's corresponding web site did not even remotely infer the incident occurred in their story about the game. It was as if it never happened.
Journalistic failure? Or embarrassed school? You decide.
If you've ever had the opportunity to come to one of our trivia nights, you've probably had a good time and lots of fun. We have a lot of laughs while spending two hours trying to answer trivia questions...in fact, some people learn a few things!
Recently, however, I had an experience at a trivia night that struck me in such a way that I didn't really have a response beyond doing what was right in the eyes of OSIP.
Prior to the start of each trivia night, we hand out materials to all the teams, including paper, pens, rules, and an informational brochure on the organization. When we start the festivities, we encourage anyone who hasn't attended before to read the brochure (it's very small) to understand OSIP and why we do what we do. Within a few moments, we begin the first round of questions.
After each question is asked, my assistant(s) for the evening (we call them "rovers" since they rove around collecting the answers) go to each team to collect their answer and bring it to me. It's a small service we try to offer so that people don't have to get up after each question if possible. Well, on that night, the rovers brought me the answers after the first question, and I was floored by the name of one of the teams.
As a sidenote, we ask each team to name themselves. They can be as creative as they way, but they are asked to be mindful if children are present. We've had some great names, some of which can't be repeated on a family blog.
But on that night, one team decided to name themselves "Duke Sucks."
After only a moment to comprehend the situation and act upon it, I decided to simply record their name as "Duke" and announce it as such. I wasn't about to make a scene or force them to change it, but I wasn't going to compromise the values of our organization. But there was still one question I had: did this team not know they were playing trivia with a sportsmanship charity?
After two rounds of me not announcing their full team name, the team of two people asked one of the rovers why I wasn't announcing the full name. The rover looked down at the table where they were sitting and saw them watching a University of North Carolina basketball game on their phone. These were typical UNC fans who wanted to exert their dominance over their rival Duke. And the rover handled it perfectly: she simply told them we were a sportsmanship organization. The two team members, however, shrugged it off like it was nothing.
Now, the good news is that no scene was made that evening. The team left as soon as trivia was over (and they didn't win). But I was left wondering why they were so aloof to what was right in front of them. After all, we provided the documentation about our organization before trivia began. We even announced prior to trivia that people unfamiliar with us should read the brochure. And yet, they still chose to act in an unsportsmanlike manner. And when it was explained to them what was wrong, they didn't bother to change their name or anything.
Do people who partake in unsportsmanlike conduct consciously choose to ignore the golden rule? Or are they subconsciously trained to just act this way?
Regardless, poor sportsmanship comes in all shapes and sizes.
It takes a lot for me to turn off a Bond movie when I catch it on television. Maybe I have plans and have to go out. Perhaps it's bed time (and I can just watch it from my bed while I fall asleep). But I recently turned off a Bond marathon once I realized something.
I was watching it on the Esquire network.
I have recently decided to boycott the Esquire network due to the discovery of a show they promote that is the complete antithesis of good sportsmanship: Friday Night Tykes.
If you're unfamiliar with the show, Friday Night Tykes is a reality show that depicts the horrors of youth football in Texas. Normally, youth football isn't a terrible thing. However, the network promotes this show as such a good thing, rather than as a vehicle to expose what is wrong in our youth sports. The show features teams of 8 and 9 year olds being coached by adults who yell obscenities at these kids to motivate them to play hard. The adults not only curse, but they reference violence and encourage their kids to practically rip the heads off of other kids. I'd write some of the direct quotes here, but this is a family blog.
In short, this is just another reality show that chooses to get ratings and viewers by putting the worst junk they can find on television and letting the public enjoy watching others suffer. It is the prime example of what all reality shows do: the exposure of people who have misguided priorities, and the opportunity of the common television viewer to laugh at those on the screen rather than look inside and try to better themselves. But now, innocent youth suffer the brunt of this propaganda.
The tip of the philosophical side of these arguments resides in the name of the network. If you look up the definition of the word "esquire" beyond its meaning in the American legal world, it has a tone of representing gentlemen. The network prides itself in being themed towards the male mind as he aims to be an old-school gentlement, commenting on the finer, more posh things in the categories of fashion, cocktails, politics, and women. And yet, promoting such a television show is the exact opposite of what a gentleman might do.
Being a gentleman is about respect, not about the acquisition of title, assets, women, and other possessions. The misuse of the term in its form today (especially as associated with the network) plays on our primal desire to act in superficial, selfish ways that have been promoted by a shallow society. Basically, a network that claims to be about gentlemen is doing the exact opposite, especially with the exploitation of children.
Don't watch the show. Don't watch the network. Take a stand and promote some morals for once.
As if college football wasn't insane enough with its money grabbing disorganization and exploitation of student athletes, we have yet another example to remind us of the absurdity of giving any credence to collegiate athletics.
Did you happen to read the stories surrounding the Russell Athletic Bowl between Miami and West Virginia? Regardless, let me answer some questions you might have.
First and foremost, yes...the Russell Athletic Bowl is a thing.
It's as useful as the ficticious PapaJohns.com Bowl about which Carl sings during his rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force holiday album, "Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas." The lyrics properly describe the onslaught of each of these bowl games and how they are never competitive or worthy of our viewership: "Florida State leads by 28...so why is Rutgers attempting a field goal? It's 4th an 17! You gotta go for it, then you get the on-side kick!"
These bowl games that the FBS division of the NCAA provide us multiply each year. If you're not familiar with sports and need an analogy of what this is like, this is the equivalent of Disney acquiring LucasFilm and churning out a new Star Wars film each year. Everybody and their mother new that the canon of Star Wars was just fine how it was, but the chance to make more money with a new trilogy and anthology films was too tempting.
Secondly, yes...I am a nerd.
Okay, back to the topic on hand.
Prior to the Russell Athletic Bowl, there was a children's charity event that hosted both teams. Unfortunately, members of both teams began to get chippy with each other, culminating with a threat to put a player's draft stock in jeopardy, inferring intentional injury on the field during the game. It never dawned on those present to consider the fact that the event was meant to be entertainment for children for charitable purposes. It never occurred to them that the purpose of the event was bigger than football. It just doesn't enter the minds of these athletes and their adult superiors that they are the priviledged ones who have the opportunity to do things like play sports with the potential future of continuing at the professional level.
During the game, another incident occurred in one of the bathrooms at the stadium. A fan of each team got into a heated argument. The West Virginia fan, who, and this is not a joke, only has one leg, threated to urinate on the Miami fan, which resulted in the Miami fan punching the West Virginia fan in the face. A chase ensued between the two, followed by the one-legged West Virginia fan screaming at the Miami fan about how he, and I'm paraphrasing, used to have sexual relations with similar people while in prison.
Wow. Anybody else need another beer?
If you're looking for the full description, just search for it...the search results will give you everything you need.
I sound like a broken record when I analyze these events because they are becoming more and more frequent and the solution is the same simple answer. How many more of these things do we need to report and expose as ugly marks on our society? What else needs to be done to get people to grow up and respect each other, regardless of their team/fan association?
This is where I would offer the usual solutions to these problems, so use your imagination to figure out what goes here and what you can do to prevent these incidents from occurring in the future. Here's a hint: the solution is obvious.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.