I’m moved to remind any of us who complain that sports is too focused on winning…that it doesn’t focus enough on sportsmanship…and that it too often reflects something other than what we teach our kids…of Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game.
Let me open by assuring you that I’m no prude – not anti-fun, or a hater because I don’t follow the questionable actions of others.
And let me remind you all that I am the very soul of competition, hard play, and I’m the first to tell someone who’s unhappy when team ‘A’ is clearly better than team ‘B’…that there’s really nothing to do except for team ‘B’ to get better.
And I say this in the wake of Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game when a lot of adults that I know personally spent way too much time on social media glorying in the fact that the Buckeyes won for the eighth year in a row…that we don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan…and that no one deserves a “beatdown” more than Michigan.
One acquaintance wrote, “I don’t mean to gloat, but I’m just so proud to be a Buckeye.” This same person once quoted Scripture to me over my writing that there’s no substitute for winning, and said, “Pride cometh before the fall.” Sage words! He should remember them.
The irony of all this, of course, is the fact relative to many of these same people who march with torches over the issues of competitive balance, sportsmanship, and too much emphasis on winning pertaining to high school – the same people who routinely write to Press Pros to object when we say if you don’t like getting beat don’t ask for an easier division. Just play up to the established standard. People who say that it’s ugly to suggest that a focus on winning is more noble than to question the sportsmanship of a post-game handshake line.
And yet, some of what’s been said and written because Ohio State beat Michigan in a football game is, for lack of a better word…UGLY! And even in Michigan, where a reporter from an Ohio television station asked Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh in the post-game interview room, “What’s the reason for the gap (in the two programs). Is it talent? Is it preparation? Or it coaching?” The timing and underlying meaning of his question could not be misinterpreted.
Harbaugh answered by saying: “I’ll answer your question, but I won’t answer your insult.”
Geez-z-z-z! Can you imagine saying something like that to an area high school coach? Even one at a state tournament event where the proportionately the stakes are just as high as they were Saturday for Jim Harbaugh? And yet, we do it over Ohio State-Michigan with such liberty…as if all the issues of competition, respect, sportsmanship, and empathy are thrown to the wind on Facebook.
It’ll be in the archives of the Detroit Free Press for a few days (www.freepress.com), and if you think I’m making much to do about nothing go online and read what journalism’s best wrote following Saturday’s game…about the hometown team. Mitch Albom, who’s won every conceivable award possible, penned this headline: “Michigan’s Sickening Reality…Ohio State Is Just Better”.
Reality? No argument. Ohio State is better. But if you included the term ‘sickening’ with such a headline about a high school game in the local newspaper someone would call for your head.
And to another reality overlooked by Albom and the host of accomplices who piled on with a dozen other Free Press stories, it’s reality that every sport runs in cycles – what goes around comes around. Can you say John Cooper? Cooper won 75% of his games as coach of the Buckeyes, but his record against Michigan was 2-10-1. I remember it well, that and those same people who preach proper focus, character, and sportsmanship, who said, “Cooper’s got to go…He’s awful…He can’t beat Michigan.”
We have, of course, a lot bigger issues to address in Ohio, in our counties, communities, and homes than the hyper-obsession with beating Michigan in a football game. I’ve known more than a few people who take that occasion to drink too much, get so unruly as to distinguish themselves amidst 107,000 other people, and are shown the gate – go to the parking lot and sleep it off in the car. And yet, on Monday we go back to the tried-and-true life lessons of moderation, respect, and “there’s more to a game than just winning”. Really?
If we learn anything at all during one weekend of the year, it’s how easy it is to talk out of both sides of your mouth. Agree?
How easy it is to become, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
How easy it is to buy and wear a T-shirt that reads, “M–k Fichigan”.
How easy it is to go to a high school game and pretend conveniently to be something…that we’re not during Michigan week.”
And claim: We have to set the example for kids.