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?