Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bad Sportsmanship on the Rise

Kanye West and Serena Williams Model Lack of Grace

Did ya see it last weekend? The US Open women's finals. Not the match but the Serena-throw-down with a line judge. The tennis was sort of mediocre in the games leading up to the real excitement, Serena Williams' temper tantrum. She was losing badly against Kim Clijsters and, after slamming a racket to smithereens earlier in the match, finally went off on a tiny line judge exclaiming, "If I could, I would take this ****ing ball and shove it down your ****ing throat!" Wow! Where were those uniformed officials holding up signs saying Quiet? This is a civilized sport.

The token $10,000 fine imposed on her is a drop in the bucket compared to the $450,000 she earned from this tournament alone. An investigation will determine whether Williams committed a major offense. If so, she could lose all these winnings and be suspended from next year's tournament. And although she made a statement that indicated awareness of her abysmal behavior she has yet to offer a real apology.

I hope she gets much harsher penalties. I hated the earlier days of John McEnroe's ridiculous antics. He would rant at judges and even ball boys. This opened the door for many children to become maniacs in their little league games and pee wee soccer matches.

When my son began playing competitive racquetball he was only seven. We went to the junior national championship tournament that year where he got his first exposure to competitors behaving like spoiled, self-centered children on the court. It only took one time for him to learn that this was not acceptable in our family. At a local event that same year he got very upset, yelling and stomping off in frustration. His dad explained that this behavior was the very opposite of sportsmanship and if it continued, he wouldn't be allowed to finish the match. Our son went on to play for many years, winning regional titles and national acclaim. He was frequently singled out for his graciousness and won a number of sportsmanship awards.

A few years after his wake-up experience, our son was playing little league and was stunned to see 10 and 11-year-old boys lose their composure, scream and even cry at games. He had learned that it is not only childish and self-indulgent but it is terribly counter-productive to improving your game. If you're falling apart, there is no focus for improved performance. Sports participation is a great opportunity for children to learn how to be graceful winners and gracious losers, both of which will happen to them in life.

Apparently no one taught rapper Kanye West this lesson as a child. He has repeatedly made an unattractive spectacle of himself at awards shows, first, beating a hasty retreat - midceremony - after losing the Best New Artist category to Gretchen Wilson in 2004 at the 32nd annual American Music Awards. Then on September 14 of this year he crashed the stage as Taylor Swift was accepting her award for Best Female Video at the VMA ceremony, exclaiming that Beyonce should have received it. Did he get arrested or tackled by security? No. We just allow it to go on.

Is good sportsmanship a lost art? Is being a gracious loser out of style? How will you show your opinion to celebrities who need to learn this lesson from their paying fans?

How did you learn, or teach your child about the importance of being a good sport?
Diane Markins


Anonymous said...

As parents, we can do something about this. Many years ago, my son refused to join his team's huddle during a timeout in a basketball game. He wasn't playing well, so he somehow felt exempt from anything having to do with team. After the game, I was direct: "Believe it or not, I have no shame. So if I ever see that again, I will come down out of the stands and demand that you turn in your uniform ON THE SPOT. You don't want to try me on this. You have been warned." From that point forward, he was a sportsman in the best sense of the word. He played throughout high school without a technical foul, never talked trash, and was a graceful winner and gracious loser. He is now playing college basketball.

If I had been Serena Williams' father, even at her age, I would have come down out of the stands at the U.S. Open and DEMANDED that she apologize for her behavior. (But he's a nut case himself, so that never had a chance of happening.)

Doug Carroll

Anonymous said...

Players and performers need to be held more accountable for their actions. They need to learn that just because they're famous or have loads of money and can afford a $10,000 fine, their attitudes and arrogance isn't going to fly. Thankfully, there are parents like you and Doug, who teach their children the importance of being humble and graceful at an early age.
I think the answer to this problem of poor sportsmanship is that the world just needs more athletes like Jeffrey Brad Markins. I hear he is such a stud muffin!