The Beauty of Sportsmanship

For as long as I can remember, I have loved playing and watching sports. My interest began when I was little, surrounded by older brothers and friends who also enjoyed sports.  At 61-years old, my days of playing competitive games are just about over.  I’ve had two knee surgeries and am now dealing with a recurring bad back.

While I enjoyed competing, I was never a star athlete.  Like anyone who has played competitive sports, I’ve had my share of joy and sorrow.  I still remember pitching a no-hitter in little league, sinking the last-second shot to win a basketball game, and winning a local racquetball tournament.  I’ve been a part of several teams (mostly at the intramural level) that won championships. 

On the other hand, I remember those moments of disappointment too.  There were numerous times when I didn’t come up with the clutch hit, winning basket, or perfect tennis shot.  If you play sports for any length of time, there will be failures.  It comes with the territory.  I found it a lot easier to accept defeat when I knew I had given my all but lost to a superior player or team.

Most of my sports enjoyment now revolves around participating as a spectator.  Our son played football at the high school and collegiate level, received his college degree in exercise science, and today coaches college football.  My wife and I have watched many games in person or from the comforts of our living room.  We get wrapped up in the competition and cheer hard for the teams he’s played on or coached.

The beauty of sports is that they can teach us many life lessons.  The first thing that comes to mind is the skill of working with a team to try and achieve a common goal.  Learning to deal with failures and having the heart to pick yourself back up after a setback is crucial to future success.  Coming up with a different strategy or idea to solve problems is one of the most critical tools in life.

As I was thinking about how much enjoyment I’ve gotten from playing and watching sports over the years, I found myself reflecting on what it was about those contests that brought so much pleasure.

I’ve concluded that ultimately what I like most about sports is competition.  It’s the same reason I enjoy watching Jeopardy, a spelling bee, or even an out of control Presidential debate.  

I’ve never been a fan of so-called “reality television” because most of those shows are about as far from real life as possible.  In my opinion, sports make for the best reality viewing because there is always a certain amount of unpredictability about which team or athlete will come out on top that day.

I recently viewed/read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Jim Borden, at Borden’s Blather. https://jborden.com/ Jim shared an annual video produced by Google highlighting “the questions we shared, the people who inspired us, and the moments that captured the world’s attention.”   https://jborden.com/2020/09/30/googles-year-in-search/

The video (only two minutes in length) flashed many images from 2019.  While I remembered most of the scenes, there was one moment that I had not seen before that grabbed my attention.  I was curious and dug a little deeper to find out what it was all about. 

The setting was from the 2019 French Open following a third-round tennis match between Nicolas Mahut and Leonardo Mayer.  Mahut, a 37-old French tennis professional, had announced before the tournament that this was his last time competing.  Mayer won the hard-fought match in four grueling sets.  Mahut, who had hoped to advance to the next round to play tennis star, Roger Federer, broke down, realizing this was the final match of his career.While Mahut is processing this moment, his seven-year-old son runs onto the court to console his dad.  You don’t have to know a thing about tennis to be moved to tears by this clip.  Pay attention to Mahut’s opponent, Mayer, who is clearly touched by the young boy’s actions.  Moments such as this teach us to remember more important things in life besides who wins. 

As I was looking for that specific video clip, I came across another heartwarming tennis video that demonstrated great sportsmanship.  Argentine tennis pro, Juan Martin del Potro, and Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, faced off in a 2017 second-round match in the French Open.  Tied at 6-3, 3-6, 1-1, Almagro was forced to quit because of a recurring knee injury that had worsened during the match.  In the video, you will see del Potro trying to comfort a distraught Almagro.  It seems del Potro’s concern for his opponent is sincere.  His actions are such that he has made another fan in me. 

Do you have a favorite sporting moment that exhibits great sportsmanship?

73 thoughts on “The Beauty of Sportsmanship

  1. I completely agree with your analysis of what makes sport so special, Pete, and why so called reality tv doesn’t even come close. Nicholas Mahut is dear to British hearts for being on the losing side to John Isner of a 70-68 final set at Wimbledon, and for the way they both played that match. For sporting compassion, it is hard to beat one from cricket, about which I guess you know little! The oldest rivalry is between England and Australia, and there was an epic series between the teams in 2005. At the end of one of the games, England won by just 2 runs. This is what happened next: https://youtu.be/IZbV-qcDsdE

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 4:05 pm

      I’ve seen a few minutes of cricket on television before, but I don’t know any of the rules. Still, I can recognize the sportsmanship in that clip. Thanks for sharing, Clive. I started to go into great detail about the Isner/Mahut match, but I figured only sports addicts like me would care or remember that. I remember that match went over the course of three days, and the last set alone lasted over seven hours. That would have set the all-time record for the longest match in itself. The French Open is taking place right now, and I believe it is the only tournament left where they don’t play a fifth-set tiebreaker.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a lovely moment. I was watching on a tv in the supermarket, along with loads of other guys who had forgotten they were there to buy food!

        Wimbledon gave both players a trophy after that match, which did indeed stretch over three days thanks to our weather as well as that final set. Mahut had the good grace to say that even though he lost he recognised he’d been part of something special. It made great tv viewing. Yes, the French is the only one that hasn’t yielded to the final set tiebreak, though Wimbledon has done its best to avoid it by using it only at 12-12, unlike the US and Australian who use the regular 6-6 format.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. that was a great video, a wonderful sign of sportsmanship

      Liked by 1 person

  2. At my first hurdle race in high school, I crashed into the first one and fell. Devastated, I sat to the side and cried and cried. A teammate I didn’t know that well sat right by me and said all kinds of encouraging advice as she kept her arm around me.

    Sports is also an arena where you truly push yourself, work hard, and feel a team unity. It’s a great experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 4:09 pm

      Actions like those of your teammate are not soon forgotten. It demonstrates how far a little kindness goes that you still remember that. I used to run the hurdles too, Chelsea through junior high and throw the shot put. That was a bit of an oddity since those events don’t normally match up that well. I was the fat kid that could still run pretty fast.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not a big sports watcher myself, but I appreciate people’s love for them especially after reading such a thoughtful essay such as this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 4:12 pm

      Sports aren’t for everyone. I’ve slowly worn my wife down over the years. Sometimes I’ll come in the house after running errands, and she’ll have a football game on. I get quite a laugh out of that, considering she had no interest when we first started dating.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What beautiful clips, Pete. I don’t watch sports and would never have stumbled across these. (Tear jerkers). There are good people everywhere and that gives me hope. What wonderful role models.

    Like

  5. Fabulous post, Pete. Although hubby and I watch football together and he played multiple sports in school, I was never sports minded myself. Some of my fondest memories of sports “moments” are the 1980 American hockey win over Russia in 1980 and Triple Crown Wins.

    I watched Secretariat win the Triple Crown with my father in 1973. My dad died in 1975, and somehow I missed the 1977 and 1978 wins. Hubby and I watched the TC races every year after we were married. Then in 2015 we saw American Pharoah win together. Two amazing races with the two most important men in my life. I will never forget those moments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 6:43 pm

      The Miracle on Ice has to be one of the three best sports moments of all time. Going to the horse races is something my wife and I occasionally like to do. I wasn’t a race fan at the time, but I have seen the footage of Secretariat’s win in the Belmont. Seldom has a race margin ever been that large before between first and second.
      I think one of the best points you’ve made is how sharing these moments with someone you love makes them the best. Two years ago, I fulfilled one of my Bucket List wishes by going to my first Final Four Championships in Minneapolis. My son was supposed to go with me, but his job got in the way, but one of my brothers and I still had a great time.

      Like

  6. Agree with everything. In fact, so much that I wrote my MBA thesis on Bear Bryant and how his lessons applied to business. It’s awful that kids are missing out on their sports right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 6:48 pm

      Bear Bryant, with his classic houndstooth fedora, was one of the most recognizable people in coaching. Our son has coached at the lower college levels for the last five years. He loves what he is doing, but is torn between getting his high school teaching credential so that he can have a little more stability.

      Like

  7. Cheers! Uplifting and inspiring…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 6:55 pm

      Sportsmanship should always be celebrated. One of the things that have changed with some athletes in the last few years is trash talking and being disrespectful toward opponents is somehow tolerated. It sends such a bad message.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. that is exactly what is so great about sports – we need this right now

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 6:57 pm

      Especially since athletes can serve as role models for so many kids. It is a responsibility and privilege that I always like to see them embrace.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. great post, Pete. I have always been a big fan of sports for the exact reasons you mention, and I have always loved the idea of competition. I do get bothered by how much money there is in college sports though.

    Loved watching the full clip of the Mahut video, especially seeing Mayer’s reaction. I had forgotten he was in that marathon match with Isner.

    Also loved the del Potro video.

    As you noted, it’s moments like these that make sports so much better than reality shows…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 7:01 pm

      I always like to see athletes who realize that they have this golden opportunity to use their celebrity and fame to do great things in the world. I remember you used to do some long-distance running (perhaps you still do). Some of the more memorable clips I’ve seen are runners helping other runners, even if they might get disqualified by doing so.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. one of my favorite quotes is “the best exercise you can do for your heart is reaching down to lift someone else up.”

        Liked by 4 people

      2. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 7:52 pm

        Fantastic line!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Well said Pete. I get so needlessly worked up over sports sometimes I can’t stand to watch games (except in person). Winning makes us feel good for a while and losing makes us feel bad for a while but in the final analysis who wins or loses really doesn’t matter as far as our daily lives other than perhaps if we placed a wager. Sports has great lessons like teamwork, sportsmanship (respecting others and yourself) and that reputation and ability are not always dispositive of outcome. Underdogs have a chance. Sports can teach us how to get the best out of ourselves and others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 1, 2020 — 10:31 pm

      I’m not immune from getting worked up over a game. What I find comical when I’m watching a game with others is there are ALWAYS those who people who think they know better than the coaches and the referees. It is a funny dynamic that you don’t see in many other places. For example, I doubt that you have too many passengers telling you how to fly an airplane. What makes sports fans think they’re so much smarter?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Us sports fans are often sure that we know better than the experts. One of the biggest lessons from sports for me is no matter how much one knows or thinks one knows, no one really knows what is going to happen until it actually happens.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Great article, many thanks Pete. It’s good to be able to do things on your own, but one can get great satisfaction from working with a team.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 10:27 am

      The ability to be independent while also being able to work well with others are important skills. Those who lack people skills are likely not going to be as successful. Parents who opt to home school their children may not realize how many benefits their kids are getting at school simply by learning to work and play well with others.

      Like

  12. Our love of sports shows how deeply our lives are tied to competition. In most areas of our lives we are competing for something, so there is a visceral connection for most people. And there are great lessons to be learned in any sport. How you react when you win and how you react when you lose are the most important. His son rushing to him on the court is priceless, but I am more struck by the look on Mayer’s face. The empathy and compassion is obvious. Amidst his glowing victory, he could still find enough heart to recognize what it meant for his competitor. Competition teaches us many life lessons, the most important being about who we are and who we want to be. Great post, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 10:40 am

      I’m glad you brought up the point about how to carry yourself when you win. I know that I’ve got a bit of an old school attitude about this, but I’m not a big fan of trash talk or trying to humiliate an opponent. What’s the line? Act like you’ve been there before.

      I also was struck by Mayer’s reaction. When people are embroiled in political disputes, I think of instances such as this to bring people together. Sports can be a great unifier for people of differing backgrounds. That applies to those playing the game and for those cheering for a team.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. A great post, Pete. Thank you. It’s the way fellow sportsmen understand the dedication that goes into their chosen sport. Wonderful examples of empathy. I have a fondness for Nigel Owens, a Welsh rugby referee. His way of being with the players, especially when the testosterone is flying high, is wonderful to see. He can bring them together without taking anything away from the players or the game. He’s famous for his line ‘Let’s have a chat…’ right in the middle of a game. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 10:42 am

      I’m not familiar with Owen, but I love his attitude. People should be able to compete hard and still have a beer with your opponent after the game.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True sportsmanship, Pete. x

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post, Pete. Good sportsmanship is what we need in our lives right now, and not just in sports! YOu reminded me of a touching moment when teenager Bianca consoled Serena at the Roger’s Cup.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 10:49 am

      I remember that moment. Excellent point, Margie. Sportsmanship should prevail in many areas in one’s life. How we carry ourselves is important because our children are watching and learning lessons even when we’re not overtly teaching them.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Outstanding post, Pete! This is real life and the moments that teach us the greatest life lessons. When our children were little, the public schools did away with competitive sports at the elementary school level. I think that was a terrible move. Out the window went opportunities for educating the heart and allowing children to experience ‘the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat’. I will always remember Miracle on Ice, the US women’s gymnastic team with Mary Lou Retton, watching Nadia Comaneci score a perfect 10, and ‘the snow game’ (New England Patriots football). Yes, I love sports and all it brings. Thank you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 10:57 am

      A sports team is like a classroom. People of different backgrounds are brought together. That reminds me of another beautiful characteristic of children. As happens during a typical year, students come and go. Whenever we got a new student, I was always impressed by how easily many children could be welcoming and accepting. It came naturally to them. There was never a level of distrust about someone because they looked or sounded different.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You hit the nail on the head on all counts, Pete. Children can teach us so much.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. We could do with some of that sportsmanship in a few places around the world at the moment…Sport teaches us so many life skills I wish kids had daily sports lessons in schools it would teach them so much 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 10:59 am

      That is one of the things I miss most about teaching. I often joined in with the activity and played the game with my students. Since PE was at the end of the day, I’d sometimes show up for a meeting after school all hot and sweaty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice…I bet there was social distancing then even back then…wink….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 5:58 pm

        That Springer sure knows how to clear out a room. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Haha…I hope you are well and staying safe, Pete 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Very important and much needed in our world today!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 11:33 am

      Absolutely! When I was teaching elementary school, I felt that one of my biggest responsibilities was to set a good example for students. Parents, bosses, and anyone in a management position should understand that others will take their cues from you.

      Like

  18. Well, I did like playing hockey as a kid. Volleyball and softball as a young adult. All were competitive, but pickup–not organized teams. Now I watch pro-football and pro-hockey some of the time. Can’t say sportsmanship is something I recall seeing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 11:35 am

      I think modern sports culture has moved away from sportsmanship, and that’s unfortunate since many children idolize these star athletes and emulate their behaviors.

      Like

      1. You’re right about that.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. When my daughter was little, probably three, we took part with a close friend and her kids in a town field day. When the child next to her fell, my daughter stopped running to help him up. A newman was there and snapped a photo which appeared in The Oregonian. It was a very touching moment for all demonstrating what really matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 2, 2020 — 1:30 pm

      What a wonderful human moment. The beauty of your story is that your daughter may simply have internalized that this was the right thing to do without anyone telling her.

      Competition is part of life, but we should compete hard while still conducting ourselves with decorum.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is exactly why she stopped.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. It’s always good to see moments such as these to restore my faith in human nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 3, 2020 — 3:54 pm

      I think that’s why these clips seem so touching. I’m an optimist and believe that most people have it in their hearts to try and be decent to others.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is a very good belief to have, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. A lovely post, Pete. I enjoyed your comments about sport. I moved schools many times during my 12 year school career and the one negative was that I never really got to play much sport. The different schools had different sports and I was always a beginner or a newby. I saw this post of Jim’s and also enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 4, 2020 — 7:48 am

      I taught a few kids in your situation at school. I felt terrible for them because just about the time they were making lots of friends and bonding, they were moving again. Most were the children of migrant workers. I think, depending on the child, some kids probably adjusted fine.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. What a fantastic tribute to sportsmanship, Pete. My children were lucky enough to go to schools that required them to participate in a winter and summer sport every year, and they gained so much from it. Toni x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 5, 2020 — 7:25 am

      Absolutely! There are so many great lessons learned from team sports. Many of our son’s teammates have become some of his best friends. He goes to visit one of his old high school coaches every time he is in town.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Pete, we could watch TV together amicably, lol. We like and dislike the same shows. Add in a good police procedural and documentaries and we’re good, lol. Do you watch the new Press Your Luck gameshow?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 5, 2020 — 7:02 pm

      I’ve heard of it but never watched it before. I used to watch many games shows back in the day, but not that much anymore. Do you remember Hollywood Squares and The Match Game?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of courseeeeeee! 🙂 Press your luck is now a remake. It’s the Whammy show. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Wonderful post Pete and I agree wholeheartedly that sport, team or solo has a profound effect on our lives. I played hockey, tennis and netball and moving schools frequently because of my father’s naval career meant that making new friends in an existing group was challenging, but playing sport provided a great way to be included quickly. I have never been a star athlete but sports has certainly played a crucial role in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 6, 2020 — 8:17 am

      For kids that may have trouble in social situations, joining a team is one of the best ways to connect with others. If one is not great at sports, I’d recommend music, theater, or finding a group that shares a common interest.

      Sports are a great unifier as they cross all color, cultural, and ethnic differences.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you for this very interesting posting, Pete! I never had a real chance in team sport, because this was only possible during school time, and only for soccer. This time i looked myself like a ball. Lol However there are true benefits of team sports, i had to learn occasionally. 😉 Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 6, 2020 — 4:51 pm

      I appreciate you stopping by to comment, Michael. It isn’t so much about winning and losing, but working together with another group of people for a common goal. It sure helps to develop the skill to work with others. Nearly every job I had involved the ability to work and get along with coworkers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thats at least true, Pete! In my opinion team cooperation can be learned better within sports. Thank you for the ver interesting story, Pete! Enjoy your day! Michael

        Liked by 1 person

  26. I’m not a great sports fan (well, in Wales we have rugby but that’s more a religion here) but the first clip had me in tears. It’s so moving on different scores – there’s the father who’s just lost, the son who wants to show his love and support, and the emotional opponent who empathises so visibly with the situation. Thanks for making me cry! (I think.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 7, 2020 — 9:14 pm

      Enjoying sports is not a prerequisite to identify with the feelings that father, son, and opponent are feeling. We connect with anyone when we see people sharing genuine human emotions. All I could think of is how the tennis player’s son reminded him of what is truly important.

      Like

  27. Beautiful moments. I’m not a fan of sport and don’t enjoy watching it. I did enjoy playing tennis at school and basketball at college. Not much else though. I agree it’s good for building teamwork and good attitudes (for some) to competition and winning or losing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor October 20, 2020 — 9:28 am

      My wife didn’t have much of an appetite for sports when we first met, but I’ve worn her down over the years. 🤣 She didn’t stand a chance when our son started playing sports and later became a coach. Even people who don’t like sports can appreciate sportsmanship, in all areas of life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! It is such an important skill. I do acknowlege that. I practised it most in less active ‘sports’, like board games.

        Liked by 1 person

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