Sportsmanship Takes A Back Seat
in U.S. Victories
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October 27, 1999
Commentary by Executive Director John E. "Jack" Roberts;
Recent back-to-back "World Championships"
- first in a Women's World Cup soccer championship game shootout,
then in an unprecedented come-from-behind Ryder Cup golf victory
- should have all red-blooded sports enthusiasts reveling in
red, white and blue joy.
But to some, the victories don't feel as good as they should.
During the dramatic conclusion to the World Cup, the United
States goalkeeper violated the rule that limits the goalkeeper
to moving laterally, not forward, until the ball is kicked.
The U.S. goalkeeper took two strides forward before the Chinese
player kicked the ball. No call.
And worse, no apology. Even worse, it turns out the action
was intentional, even rehearsed on the first penalty kick. The
goalkeeper's response to the Los Angeles Times, "It
is only cheating if you get caught."
Los Angeles Times sports editor Bill Dwyre, writing in
Referee Magazine's October 1999 issue, has stated: "It
was especially interesting how, in our rush to embrace the U.S.
Team and the slam-dunk, politically correct media opportunity,
there was (and has been) no discussion whatsoever as to the significance
of putting all our sports morals and ethics squarely in the laps
To make matters worse, another World Cup team member used blatant
profanity in a post-match TV interview. Writing in the NCAA
News, University of Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley stated,
"It is a shame that the greatest moment in the history of
U.S. women's team sports has, in my opinion, been dampened by
the actions of one athlete."
And then there was this Ryder Cup match where spectators turned
one of the few remaining sports with any civility into a partisan
debacle where nasty words and gestures were directed at players
and the families of players.
And in keeping with the disgusting display of sportsmanship
by spectators, the nearly victorious U.S. Team stormed around
and onto a putting green where a European waited to make a putt
that could have reversed U.S. fortunes.
Many in the media have noted that outrage from Europe - where
violence, destruction and death have often occurred at sporting
events - is disingenuous. But that dodges the issue: our behavior
was terrible - by some spectators throughout the three-day event
and by our spectacular players at its conclusion.
It is a difficult chore we face in school sports to expect that
players, coaches and spectators at our events will participate
and observe with respect and decorum when they see the best of
our athletes present the worst of our sportsmanship and so few
people are outraged about it.
It is another hurdle for us to overcome in educational athletics.