As 2015 occupies our calendars let me wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I admit on this first day of January I have not been watching golf. The first college football playoff has garnered my interest. Oregon took care of business by thrashing Florida State and now as I type the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide are teeing it up in New Orleans. Meyer vs Saban, a classic grudge match of football egos. Truly entertaining.
Surprisingly as I watched the first contest a few parallels entered my mind. Obviously football isn’t golf. Yet it is still a competitive sport and some of sport’s axioms are inherent in both. Or are they?
Golf is often an individual endeavor. It’s man against man (match play) or man versus course (stroke play). On only a few occasions is team competition involved. Golf is one of those sports where the focus is on the player, rather than a team of players in most cases. You play the game, write down the scores than add them up at the end, pure and simple.
Today I find sport has taken a wrong turn when it comes to one of the important aspects found in any game. I blame much of it on the over-saturated media attention from sports-only networks. You know them. You watch them. They focus more on showmanship instead of sportsmanship. That is becoming a serious problem in many of the games being played.
This was on display this evening as the final gun sounded in the Rose Bowl. The majority of players from FSU headed for the locker room rather than crossing the field and congratulating their opponents. Sure, I get that a 40-point beat down is tough to take but when you play a game you had better be ready to engage in every facet of it. Sportsmanship is very much a part of sport.
A few Seminole players, Jameis Winston for one, did make an effort to shake hands with a few Ducks. The majority of ‘Noles probably had their pads off. Two questions popped into my mind with this display. First, why are the FSU players acting like this? Secondly, who is the role model encouraging such behavior?
By answering the latter you can figure out the initial inquiry. Certainly FSU’s head coach sets the tone. The actions of his players at the end of this game speaks volumes about his program. Imagine this kind of attitude in golf? Imagine Palmer walking off against Nicklaus without extending his congrats? Tiger isn’t the most gracious loser as compared to some of his predecessors but at least he extends his hand. Is golf in jeopardy of losing this important feature? I hope not. Imagine a taunting penalty in golf?
It’s probably very apparent I am old school. I’ve been around this game for more than fifty years. One of the first things we were taught as junior golfers focused on the etiquette inherent in the game. Part of that doctrine involved sportsmanship. Knowing how to act was just as important as swinging the club. Sadly that attitude seems to be missing in other sports. It was null and void after tonight’s Rose Bowl regarding Florida State. It was sad to see.
As we head into a new year I ask that everyone involved in sports validate the importance of sportsmanship. Be an advocate rather than an antagonist. Winning is fun but knowing how to lose is just as important. In the past year we’ve seen several occasions of stupidity by athletes so far removed from sportsmanship it makes you scratch your head. Part of the problem is generational. Today’s players haven’t been taught how to act. Etiquette is an unknown concept. Parents, coaches, it’s up to you to reinforce the lesson. Let’s make sure one of the most endearing features of our game leads as a strong example for others.