Sports and Sportsmanship

Sports and sports culture have become one of the biggest sources of revenue for the country as well as for the individuals who play it.  And the higher one is able to rise in this medium, the more pressure there is to stay competitive or risk losing not only their edge on the field, but also the fame and fortune that comes with being the best. In the past few years, as sports, specifically: Football, Basketball and Baseball have become more popular than ever, subsequently, there has been found more cheating than was ever known before.

In the 1980’s baseball players like Tim Raines and Steve Sax were known for their illegal drug use and Pete Rose was caught betting on his own team but those instances were not in order to give them an edge on the competition but were in response to their own personal demons that they were dealing with.Today, with steroid use running rampant to the degree that just today, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig commented in a news conference on February 8th, 2007 that he will not be on hand when Barry Bonds breaks the most important record in sports: the all time home run record held by Hank Aaron and which stands at 755.

(Tribune, 2007) Floyd Landis tested positive for drug use twice after he won a spectacular Tour De France race last year and Marion Jones in track and field has tested positive for steroids as well. A small minority of baseball fans in response to the steroid allegations of some of baseball’s brightest stars said that they didn’t care and that the extra homeruns brought on by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the memorable ’98 season was worth it and good for baseball.

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This would mirror the warped logic and ethics that the statement: We obeyed all the rules and finished last in the conference. Now there isn’t a rule we haven’t broken and where are we? Playing in the biggest bowl game ever would seem to portray. First, it is unlikely that this statement is factual.  The referees and the NCAA are not perfect but student athletic games as well as the booster clubs and the funding that each sports program receives as well as recruitment practices by the coaches are so closely monitored, that such teams would find it impossible to break “every rule” or even a majority of the rules and not be found out. Also, regardless of any sport, consistently breaking the rules will eventually be found out and more times than not, the cheating is not a fair substitute to hard work and self discipline.The most recent tragedy in sports is that of Mark McGwire. I must confess that the ’98 season was one of the greatest in baseball. After the strike of ’94, a majority of fans, myself included, were dumbfounded at the idea that men playing a kids game and getting paid millions of dollars when I would have gladly done the same for the minimum, went on strike for even more money. The ’98 season brought most of them back as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled all summer long to see who would eventually end up owning the new home run record for a single season. The home runs that Mark McGwire hit which soared more than 500 feet were a sight to see. And with being a Cubs fan, it was all to appropriate to see Sammy Sosa capture the attention of a city as he finally ended up with 66 homeruns for the year. However, when McGwire was made eligible for the hall of fame last year, he received almost no votes. A man with over 500 home runs is guaranteed a spot in the hall of fame.  That is unless it is seen as probable that said individual spent a majority of his professional career using illegal steroids and that the use of these steroids were denied under oath along with Rafael Palmerio in May of 2005 who tested positive for steroids later that year. (Tribune, 2007) This deception put a black mark on the game itself and there are many who will still regard Hank Aaron as the home run king, regardless of whether Bonds hits 800 career home runs.What the above mentioned players was abuse the trust that millions of baseball fans have for them and for the millions of little kids, myself included, who dreamed that one day, we could be playing at Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium during the 7th game of the Worlds Series and that hard work and determination was enough to be successful in life. This is not entirely true but the idea that the athletes we were watching were breaking the rules, cheating in effect, was something that we did not even consider. In baseball, unlike any other sport, there is a respect for the past. The accomplishments of a player are measured against the people that can before him. When a person cheats in any manner, it does a disservice to the great men who came before and who accomplished major feats while staying clean. Every record in sports today should be under scrutiny and in my opinion, every record should have an asterisk around them since they were achieved through cheating. And that should disqualify them from receiving our trust, recognition and faith in their supposed great feats of human strength, endurance and skill.Sportsmanship is not what it was in years past. Muhammad Ali is known, and rightly so, as the greatest boxer of all time and one of the most important and influential athletes of all time. But even though I am in the minority in this, I do not regard him as a good person or one who displayed proper acts of sportsmanship. He purposely demeaned his opponent both in and out of the ring and when he was banned from boxing for three years, both Joe Frazier and George Foreman assisted him both financially and emotionally only to be repaid by being called an uncle tom and a monkey to which Joe Frazier is still mad about. This example is a few years removed from contemporary society but he is brought up now because he still has influence on today’s athletes and people still want to act like him. This does a disservice to the idea of sportsmanship.Sportsmanship has to do with an individual doing their best, not complaining about one’s coach or other players and to be humble in both victory and defeat. Jeremy Shockey, an average player for the football New York Giants, is quick to blame everyone but himself when the Giants lose another disappointing game. ( Pearson, 2007) Ron Artest, the thug of the NBA, feels that he was fouled and responds by going into the stands are beating up fans. Thomas Jones, running back for the Chicago Bears, held out for more money than he was worth and as a result, missed a good portion of training camp this last year. When scoring a basket in the NBA, half of the attempt is to score the points and the other half is to demean one’s opponent in the process. People lead by their words more than their actions and an oblivious teenage fan is made to believe that is how the game should be played and thus, imitates what he sees on the court. This also does a disservice to the idea of sportsmanship.A shining light in a sport with the biggest egos would have to be Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harris. He is one of the greatest wide receivers in the game today and is on his way to a hall of fame career. Yet, many people do not know of him. That is because is very humble and soft spoken. He realizes that he has a blessed life, and unlike the majority of athletes, feels that he does need the acceptance of millions of strangers in order to be happy. He does not demean his opponent and usually after a touchdown, simply hands the ball to the referee and goes over to the sidelines. Does he pay a price for being humble and a proper sportsman? In the long run he does not because he is starting to receive attention that he deserves and people are now starting to recognize him for the great human being that he is.  If he were more like a Terrell Owens or Keeshawn Johnson; over the top wide receivers who are high on talk and low on talent, he would have been forgotten along with them. (Owens will be forgotten soon enough) This is the proper code of sportsman ship and Marvin Harris can also rest easy at night knowing that he is a proper role model for the young people who look up to him and try to act as he does. He has a proper respect for the social responsibility that has been placed on him.When Charles Barkley proclaimed that he was not your child’s role model, he was unfortunately mistaken. It would be advantageous to millions of children if their own parents or leaders of the community served as role models but with 70% of African American children being born without a father in the picture and the number of role models that are not rap artists or athletes at a minimum, athletes serve as a role model, whether they like it or not. When Latrell Spreewell chokes his coach and then goes into the locker room to cool down and then comes back to do it again, he is oblivious to his social responsibility. When Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwuire, Jason Giambi, Marion Jones and Floyd Landis all test positive for steroids, they are oblivious to their social responsibility. When athletes hold out for millions of dollars on top of the millions that they are already making to play a game that many would play for free, they are oblivious to their social responsibility. When Michael Jordan is making $30 million a year but complies with NIKE charging upwards of $200 for a pair of shoes, which is marketed to lower income of broken homes and is caught cheating on his wife and losing millions of dollars through gambling, he is oblivious to his social responsibilities. (Pearson, 2007) Sadly, it is the media that perpetrates this injustice as the silent majority who respect the game and the blessings that they have received to play the game, never make the news and are ignored. One exception to this would be Stephan Marbury who plays in the NBA and who spent last summer developing a gym shoe that is only sold for $15 per pair, making it affordable for almost every child to dress like a NBA star without having to chose between that and whether or not they will be eating for that month. He is the rare exception of an athlete that recognizes his role within the community and responds accordingly. There need to be more people like Stephon Marbury in the NBA.If individuals or teams are able to cheat, then there is not a level playing field that is present. This is the idea of the salary cap in baseball in order to keep the richest teams from securing a monopoly on the best players. But as seen by The New York Yankees, many rules can be spun as bonuses and good play incentives make the idea of a salary cap non existent. When baseball players ignore the rules of fair play and take illegal substances which push their fly balls to the warning track that now go over the fence, the game and the well respected records are cheapened and the innocence of the fans are lost as they are made cynical at an early age and that type of cynicism is hard to erase as one gets older in life.When college coaches break NCAA rules by conducting illegal recruitment practices, it puts into jeopardy, the future of the team as well as the funding received by the NCAA as well as the trust that the fans have for their coach. The human element of fair play must always be kept within sports. Many people prefer the college game to the pros.  Even though there is more talent on the professional level, the college game is seen as more pure since it is believed that, for the most part, the corruption that comes with multi million dollar salaries, steroid use and incredibly large egos have not yet been able to taint the college game and is the last bastion of pure sports and fair play. More times than not, they are correct and the professional game, if they care at all about their social responsibility and ethical competition, should take a page out of their playbook.In recent times, fair play and a clean consciousness has been overshadowed by the vague promise of cheating being able to extend one’s career without getting caught or the effects of the mode of cheating, cause permanent health damage to the individual. It may seen overly optimistic, but in the end, a large majority of the people who cheat in American sports get caught eventually and in the process, their entire career and the entire athletic program will forever be under suspicion and in many cases, the punishment made the crime unnecessary. Fair play is the quintessential aspect of sportsman ship but such ideologies are seen as old fashioned and dull in today’s contemporary society and the few who do practice humility and fair play, are overshadowed by the vocal minority and their accomplishments. I do not see much changing for the future however, one can always hope. 

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Sports and Sportsmanship. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

Sports and Sportsmanship
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