Are you a sportsman or a punk?

Okay, I’m going to tell you a story about softball. Don’t roll your eyes, this is an awesome story about softball.

It’s the last game of the season in Division II playoffs. Sara Tucholsky takes the bat for the last time in her college career. She’s a senior, a perennial bench-warmer who in her four years has never hit a home run. In fact, she’s only hit the ball 3 times in her last thirty-four times at bat. Against all odds, she slams it over the fence with two runners on the bases, earning a three-run homerun!

As Tucholsky rounds the first base, though, it all goes to hell. Her right ACL gives out and she collapses in agony, unable even to drag herself to the next base. The umpires rule that if she can’t round the bases, they’ll have to put a replacement on first and record her only homerun as a two-run single instead. And her teammates can’t help her.

This is where it gets awesome: The other team’s star slugger, Mallory Holtman, offers to help Tucholsky around the bases. It turns out there’s no rule against getting help from the opposite team, so Holtman and one of her teammates literally carry Tucholsky around the infield, dipping her so she can touch each base and then the home plate with her tippy toes. And this isn’t just a token of pity toward an opponent bound to lose: Tucholsky’s team ends up winning by two runs.

Reading this story, I got a lump in my throat. While I like to think of myself as a good sportsman, I don’t think I am anywhere near this generous to my opponents. I like to win. This story made me feel like a punk.

What about you? Is this the mentality you bring to competition? Are you even this selfless toward your own teammates during circuit training? Does this story at all reflect or resemble the frame of mind you are in when you compete?

As this story shows, the quality of your character is way more important than your competitive record. This isn’t some corny Disney parable where I’m asking you to lose the real battle and win the spiritual one. Even a selfish competitor must realize: history celebrates the honorable fighter, not the cutthroat.

There’s a lot of bad sportsmanship in competitive jiu jitsu and in MMA. The Tito Ortiz “You ain’t trying if you ain’t cheating” philosophy would demand the competitor celebrate Tucholsky’s fall, or maybe even try to drop bricks on her. If Tito were the coach of the opposing team, he would have been jumping for joy in the dugout, cheering his opponent’s misfortune. That’s why Tito is a clown. No matter how well he fights, he’s a poor ambassador for our sport. He won’t be remembered as a great fighter, even if he is a successful one.

Also, he is dating an orange woman who looks almost exactly like a rubber ducky.

(Read the ESPN Story here. Via his awesomeness himself, Ze Frank)

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