Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 28 September 2010 16:16
Let me state up front that I’ve never been a good loser. Whether playing checkers, Ping-Pong or a game of “HORSE” on the basketball court, I played to win.
I also was a lousy loser when my favorite college or pro teams lost big games. As a kid, I can remember tears running down my face after watching my team lose a football bowl game.
On the plus side, I don’t recall throwing something and breaking the TV or losing friends over a game of Ping-Pong. Still, losing hurt… a lot.
Officiating basketball is challenging because no one is perfect, and I hate mistakes, especially mine.
As an official, I don’t experience the same emotions as players and coaches who find themselves on the winning or losing side of the scoreboard. It’s not that I don’t care. But the feelings are different.
It’s a satisfying feeling when our officiating crew calls a good and fair game. But it’s an unsettling or frustrating feeling when we let a game get too rough, missed too many calls or were inconsistent.
Some athletes and coaches are able to handle wins and losses without an emotional display and stay on an even keel. Does that mean they are soft and don’t really care as much, or does it mean they are more mature? Or does it mean they simply aren’t wired as emotionally as the next person? Exactly what does it mean?
All you need to know that each athlete is different is to watch players traveling by bus to a game. Some are quiet and contemplative. Other athletes are more boisterous, while others take a nap.
If I know anything, and sometimes I don’t think I know all that much, it is that it’s difficult to keep emotions under control, given the emotional nature of sports. Sometimes that emotion causes us to lose perspective.
Take Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, for example. In an effort to challenge his football team a few years ago after an embarrassing 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, Saban said, “Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event. It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event.”
I’m not a big fan of athletes and/or coaches analogizing sports to war. A game is not the same as war or even close to it. Coaches and players need a reality check.
Parents who coach youth teams also can easily lose perspective.
It was a good thing this summer for a Pennsylvania coach to discourage temper tantrums after a 9-year-old was ejected by an umpire for throwing his helmet after being called out at third base.
However, it wasn’t so good for the boy’s father and coach to make his point by allegedly punching his son in the face, twice. The parent was arrested on a simple assault charge.
The lawyer pointed out that the parent/coach handled the situation poorly, but claims the boy was only struck on the back.
I don’t know if the boy was hit in the face, the back or exactly where. The lesson here is it’s not cool for a short-tempered out-of-control parent/coach to correct a short-tempered Little Leaguer.
Professional athletes and owners can easily lose perspective, too. How else do you explain how athletes and owners who rake in millions or billions of dollars, risk a strike or work stoppage over the amount of money each side should make? Yet, that’s what could happen next year in the NBA and NFL if cooler and wiser heads don’t prevail.
Someone once said, “In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.”