Of late, the sports headlines are dominated by things which happen outside the lines, sometimes with people literally reaching over the lines -- all of which threaten the line which separates high school sports from its entertainment counterparts and even youth sports programs.
There isnt a single incident which leads into this scribes writings, but a chain of events which shows that there is a continued devolution, a breakdown, in what should be valued about sports in general and high school sports in particular. This devo lutionary process truly threatens educational athletics.
Among the items on this potpourri trail are the following...
You Dont Win Silver, You Lose Gold -- The increasing attitude toward winning as the only worthy goal shot through a recent Olympics, played up in ambush marketing by one sporting goods manufacturer; and in a television interview by one of that companys newest marketing tools, which proudly told a nationwide television audience that Second place sucks and third place is worse.
Is it not enough for one to simply go out and achieve to ones potential? Isnt striving to win actually more important than winning? Isnt improving athletically from practice to practice and game to game enough? Are we so short-sighted by keeping o ur eyes on the prize that we lose sight of the real purpose of high school sports?
Weve got to take something more away from these experiences than the score, because the real final score is even more important.
Convenience Sportsmanship -- Its funny how some people make sportsmanship an afterthought, claiming something in the name of fair play when it only works to their advantage.
One need look no further than major league baseball (if these people were truly professionals they would behave better) for a perfect illustration.
A team takes the easy way out by doing nothing to penalize a star player who performs a vulgar act towards an umpire, instead deferring to a ruling from the league office. The same team just a short time later pleads to the league office for a decision in its favor, citing its in the best interests of the game when fan interference wasnt called on a ball in play during a playoff game.
Thats convenience sportsmanship -- and you cant have it both ways.
Camps, Combines & Computers -- In order to increase the possibility of receiving an athletic scholarship to college, parents are forking out some big bucks on their childrens behalf, choosing to have them participate in shooting camps, combines and a bevy of other settings where college coaches are said to be in attendance (and rarely as many as promised) watching their youngster perform.
The information superhighway has also become a conduit for those looking to pedal information about our kids. The high fee parents used to pay to a service which would promote their youngster to a number of colleges though such traditional means as the mailing of stat sheets and videotapes has gone high tech.
You can now pay a fee to someone who will place all of that same information on the Internet (including a video clip) for college coaches to review. Its likely that the service you as a parent are paying for to promote your kid is then being sold to a college coach.
All of this proves that Barnum was right.
The Lost Art of Civility -- The question of civility was once put to some political candidates in a televised debate, and a sports incident was used as a illustration when the question was asked. Its a fact that mud-slinging in politics is as old as the dirt used to make the muck , but in sports we call it trash talk and taunting.
Its gotten to the point where something which began in California in the past year or so -- a pre-game handshake replacing the more traditional post-game handshake because the latter was harder to administer -- has already crept into Michigan high scho ol sports.
Some kids have learned to be careful in their youth sport activities during post-game handshake lines, watching for a spit-on hand from an opponent. This practice, by the way, is not discouraged by some coaches and parents, even when they catch their o wn kids in the act wet-handed.