Opinion: Good Sportsmanship Needs to Make a Comeback — and NOT Just in Sports

Jae C. Hong

 
Josh Holmes’ bio describes him as a former chief of staff for Cocaine Mitch and a political strategist who has previously provided commentary for places like Fox News, like here during the John Bolton “will he or won’t he testify?” moment during the Russian collusion hearings. By all accounts, the guy seems to be an astute political observer, but he might want to stick to his day job, if his latest hot take on sports is any indication.

After the Los Angeles Lakers won the championship over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals on Sunday night, Holmes wrote:

“I will never be able to understand players smiling and hugging opponents who beat them after a game. Shake their hands and gtfo the field. Nothing to be happy about.”

Reading that made me sad for him… and anyone else who feels that way. I wanted to help, so wrote:

“It’s the most basic part of good sportsmanship. I learned it while playing basketball in 5th grade. It’s a game, not a war. Also, it’s likely that some of the players know each other as former teammates (either at the pro or college level). You’re happy when your peers do well.”

This sentiment by Holmes leads me to ask a serious question: as a society, have we lost the concept of fair play, or as it’s often called, “good sportsmanship”? Some people might need a refresher course, to be reminded that the “rules” aren’t just for the losers in the contest — you have to be good winners, too.

That certainly wasn’t on display by the Lakers and their fans after the win last night, as images and videos like these show:

But this lapse in good sportsmanship extends far beyond the sports world. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, during today’s first day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, chided his colleagues about the loss of understanding of the concept of “civics,” saying that they must be separated from one’s political stance. They’re, as he deftly explained, “the rules of the road” in a democratic republic like ours. They’re mutually agreed upon rules of play — just like in the game of basketball. If one team decides it wants to move the line that delineates where players must stand to shoot a 3-pointer, what happens next?

A 2019 ESPN piece shared an excerpt from their NBA analyst Kirk Goldsberry’s book “SprawlBall: A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA,” which asked, “What if every team in the NBA could draw the 3-point line wherever they wanted?…What if every season each NBA team delineated its own 3-point line based on the strengths and weaknesses of its roster?”

Not to get too far into the weeds, the piece notes that basketball is unlike every other major sport:

Ever since the inception of the sport, basketball courts have been the same shape with equal dimensions no matter what city you played in. This consistency separates the sport from baseball and soccer, which both have different dimensions in different arenas.

But that is exactly what someone like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is suggesting, when he says he and his fellow Democrats are going to keep the committee from reaching a quorum. And he wants the all-but-assured, future Justice Barrett to recuse herself from any case involving either the election in 20 days’ time or President Donald Trump.

As this commenter wrote, it’s :

“How to Play in the Same Sandbox” Lesson 1, page 1.

I think he nailed it, don’t you?