Who’s a Poor Sport?

Although I didn’t play basketball seriously until I started teaching high school at twenty-seven, it became my favorite sport and a week seldom went by when I didn’t play once or twice for the next thirty years. Never a good shooter, I learned to rebound, to block shots and to pass to players who could shoot. I became a good team player, and the teams I was on were more apt to win than to lose.

For a while my love of b-ball even transferred to professional basketball. Although I lived closer to Portland, Seattle, my hometown, still held my allegiance for quite awhile. I was one of Seattle’s most ardent fans the year “Downtown” Freddy Brown, Dennis Johnson, Paul Silas and Jack Sikma, among others, won the NBA title. Slowly, though, my allegiance turned to the Portland Trailblazers due to the iconoclastic Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, and perhaps, most-of-all, Clyde Drexler, a classy, soft-spoken player.

Unfortunately, this allegiance to the Blazers hastened my growing disgust with the NBA in recent years. The Jail Blazers as they popularly became known in Portland came to represent all that is wrong with professional athletics. Many of the players, as noted in the Oregon article, were just plain criminals who apparently felt above the law because they were “stars.” When caught breaking the law, they inevitably blamed the police rather than accepting any responsibility for their own actions.

Rasheed Wallace, a gifted athlete who miraculously hadn’t had any run-ins with the law, was an absolute disaster on the court, collecting more technical fouls than any other NBA player for several years in a row. Despite his obvious raw talent, he lacked the self-discipline you’d expect in a junior high athlete.

Unfortunately, when I started looking around, such behavior didn’t seem confined to the Blazers as trash talking and showboating seemed to dominate the game. I soon realized I didn’t want watch a game I wouldn’t watch with my grandson, and I found it impossible to cheer a team when I couldn’t identify with a single player on the roster.

This distaste for professional basketball soon spread to other professional sports. Apparently even my definition of sportsmanship is archaic. Too many players seem to have an inflated sense of their own worth. They taunt opponents, forgetting that you can only know your true worth by the measure of your opponents, that to demean your opponent is to demean yourself.

Shall we watch
what we want to become,
or just become
what we watch?

6 thoughts on “Who’s a Poor Sport?”

  1. I don’t think there are any “good sports” playing these games any more. The current sets of players don’t even wish that there was.

  2. I’ve completely lost interest in the NBA. Haven’t watched a game on TV for years. Don’t know who won last year, or the year before. I never had any in the NHL. I’ve managed to stay interested in baseball because my mother is a fanatical Cubs fan; I’ve kept interest in the NFL by choosing to ignore the Randy Mosses and focus on the Brett Favres. If I step back and think about the obscene salaries and the bloated egos, I lose interest. So I try to avoid doing that.

    What I should do is spend more time gardening, and stargazing, and reading.

  3. It’s definitely a delicate balancing act, but I started watching some professional sports after I started watching the Seattle Mariners play and started going to games occasionally.

    You have to wonder how far the disillusionment with professional sports has spread, though, and whether owners really care one way or the other.

  4. Mr. Webster did you ever read that DeLillo book Underworld? Looking back, of course, now i would have rather read this than played organized sports in school.

  5. No, jeb, I’ve never read anything by DeLillo, but after looking at the reviews on Amazon, I decided to add it to my rather long wish list at Amazon (which I use to store lists of books I’ll read after I finish the ones I already own.)

    But, I doubt that there’s any book I would have rather read than playing high school football. Of course, that might be because my dad wouldn’t let me turn out for high school football because he said I was too light (which, of course, I was at 145 lbs).

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