A Display of Good Sportsmanship or Arrogance?

I love watching basketball, but there’s an unwritten rule that’s crept into the game and gotten under my skin…along with a few other practices that bring sportsmanship into question.

If you’ve watched an NBA game recently, you’ve noticed that the team with an insurmountable lead and possession of the ball near the end of the game allows the shot clock to expire. The ball then reverts to the losing team after the intentional violation.

Is it good sportsmanship or arrogance?

We don’t need to take a shot; we’ve already beaten you. Here you go. Take the ball and do with it as you please. We’re going home. We’re not going to play with you anymore.

But wait! There was still time for several more plays.

If you think I’m being petty, please bear with me.

If fans only attend games to find out who wins, they can save money by staying home and reading the results online. But the value in live games goes far beyond who wins or loses. Fans want to witness the skill, the competitive struggle, and the goodwill among participants. Most have a bias on who they want to win, but their satisfaction comes from experiencing the highs and lows as the drama unfolds.

It’s the event, not its result, that justifies the price of admission.

What happens in professional sports arenas trickles into school gymnasiums. Does ending the contest prematurely model good sportsmanship?

This same haughtiness became prevalent with chest-bumping and chest-pounding. It mandates that a dunk be executed with as much force as possible – all the better over a defender. Call it “a facial” to demean the opponent. Broadcast media will glorify it.

And what causes a player to walk over a downed opponent rather than around him? Or to “talk trash”?

After the gun sounds, the hug-fest that ensues among players of opposing teams suggests in-game decorum can be better. What is it about competition that brings out the worst in people? Is winning at all costs so consuming that opponents become enemy combatants? Do we want this conduct in our culture?

When I watch a game, I want the players to play hard and respect one another. An intentional shot-clock violation not only disses the opponent but also disrespects the game and cheats the fans. And lest these privileged athletes forget, their exorbitant salaries are only possible because fans buy tickets, apparel, and advertisers’ products. Fans also market the league, talking about the players and the games wherever they go.

It’s time to reconsider the adage: It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

Is it just me? Or has sportsmanship taken another hit?

It’s the event, not its result, that justifies the price of admission.

Tim Bishop

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