Kirkham's Korner: The definition of sportsmanship

By Steve Kirkham published October 11, 2006

There is a major discussion occurring now in all athletic areas concerning sportsmanship. I've had an issue with this discussion because I have no idea what the definition of sportsmanship is.

As with many other discussions in our country right now there seems to be a mindset that anything that annoys someone can be construed as a major violation of their existence.

It is a very existential discussion; if something bothers an individual then it cannot be tolerated by "someone" in a position of authority. At the very same time we have the other existential argument of "I can say what I want when I want and there is nothing anyone can do about it." Combine this with a very obvious and disconcerting trend in the world toward a lack of common decency and you have issues with sportsmanship.

The obvious answer is just observing the Golden Rule. I fear this is also not a realistic expectation in our present societal state of being. This is the hope of our administrators at events, however we know that the reverse will often happen  people will be treated exactly how you would not want to be treated.

In the athletic venue it is important to remember that you have paying customers. They have expectations of how they can behave as a fan. When you go to a Denver Bronco game and the entire stadium shouts "in-com-plete" every time an opposing quarterback throws a bad pass, or you hear "air-ball" for the rest of the game if you are a basketball player at any venue and you miss completely. What can we enforce at a collegiate venue?

As a game administrator you have to rely on the common decency factor. Negativity from a home crowd toward a visitor is not bad sportsmanship. Booing, calling someone's name that is announced during the game while they can hear, wearing shirts making fun of a particular individual or a school, or organized chants that are designed to distract a coach or player are not bad sportsmanship. These are all part of the home court advantage.

Lewd comments, vulgarity or actual threatening (which is defined by state statutes) are the behaviors that cannot be tolerated. And these are really the only behaviors that an administrator of games can enforce. The education of our fans as to the Golden Rule and how that translates into an athletic venue is our main goal. Being clever rather than lewd is much more fun and shows intelligence rather than ugliness.

The Cameron Crazies at Duke University have made an art form of distracting opposing players while being clever. My personal favorite took place at Mesa State when several of our fans would sing, "The sun'll come out tomorrow," every time the Mines redheaded point guard touched the basketball.

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