While watching game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, I came to the conclusion that both teams, were they to win, deserved the victory for their effort and tenacity throughout the series. These two teams had their differences, but in the end, the both teams showed heart and played with fiery competitiveness. The Heat won game 7 and thus earned the right to move on to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals beginning tomorrow in Oklahoma City.
With about half a minute left in the game and the score skewed in Miami's favor, Doc Rivers, the Celtics head coach, removed his star players from the game. The Heat allowed the clock to run out, thus beginning a celebration in the American Airlines Arena in Miami. Instead of walking onto the court and shaking hands following the final buzzer, Celtics point guard and center, Rajan Rondo and Kevin Garnett respectively, left the court for the locker room. Back on the court, the two head coaches shook hands, as is customary, and the other players gathered amongst a throng of reporters and player personel to shake hands. Whether these players actually congratulated each other or merely made dinner plans is unknown, but one thing is for sure, Rondo and Garnett were no where to be seen. The ESPN cameras made sure to follow the two Celtic stars as they left the court and headed directly for the away locker room.
|Flyers and Penguins players shaking hands|
following a hard fought playoff series
Professional athletes are role models and should act accordingly. In Baseball the winning team usually celebrates by shaking each other's hands in the middle of the infield, while the losing team retreats directly to their respective locker room. As a high school baseball player, we were expected to shake hands with the opposing team following the final out, lest you found yourself being chewed out by the coaches. In American Legion Baseball every player and coach lines up before the game and recites the official pledge, which states: "I will keep the rules. I will keep faith with my teammates. I will keep my temper. I will keep a stout heart in defeat. I will keep my pride under in victory. I will keep a sound soul, a clean mind, and a healthy body." Imagine if every NBA player had to recite those lines in front of 20,000 fans and millions of television viewers. It would never happen, but it should.
Every statement in the American Legion pledge speaks to sportsmanship. First, all players should abide by the rules of the game, also known as, "no cheating". Every player should have faith with his teammates because teammates should be respected too. Keeping one's temper under check, having a stout heart in defeat and quelling one's pride in victory all point directly to good sportsmanship. Players should not gloat when they win or throw a fit when they lose, these are characteristics of immature children, not honest competitors. Finally, keeping a sound soul, clean mind, and healthy body refer to respecting oneself as much if not more than one's opponents. So, to recap, according to American Legion Baseball, players should respect their teammates, the other team, and themselves. I would think that if 16 year olds can abide by these simple maxims that professional athletes could do the same.
At the end of every soccer match the players cheer for the fans. They say "thank you" to their fans for supporting them in victory or defeat, a gesture never seen in the four major American sports (Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey). Not only do the players shake hands with each other and thank the fans, often times they will exchange jerseys with the opposing team's players in order to have a momento with which to remember the match. Don't get me wrong, there is no love lost in soccer, but no matter how hard fought and grueling, following any given match, the players make a public showing of good will towards each other and the fans.
The issues with sportsmanship and professional sports are many, but they are easily ameliorated. NBA commissioner David Stern should fine both Rajan Rondo and Kevin Garnett for walking off the court before the end of game 7, and issue a separate fine for not shaking hands with their opponents. After incidents like the "Malice in the Palace" and Metta World Peace's "accidental" elbow to James Harden's head, the NBA needs to portray less of a thug image. Fining two of the NBA's best and most visible players is a good start, but David Stern should also institute a rule saying that both teams (we are only talking 12 players per team) must lineup and shake hands at the end of every playoff series, similar to the NHL. It should take place before the customary celebration and trophy ceremony so that the fans, both in the arena and on TV, see that despite the fierce competitive spirits portrayed during the games, the players are peers who respect each other.
The NBA is not the only league in need of a sportsmanship makeover. Major League Baseball and Bud Selig should direct all teams to shake hands following the end of every playoff series. The celebratory dog piles seen at the end of every MLB playoff series make for great TV, and are well deserved, but after the dust has settled, both teams should lineup and shake hands before retreated to their respective clubhouses.
|Wade and Rajan Rondo|
So, let's all remember that a sporting event, while fun, exciting, and important, is just a game. Nothing is more important in competition than respecting your opponents, your teammates, and above all, yourself. Parents remind your children, friends remind your friends, and fans remind your fellow fans that we should all show some sportsmanship and be respectful of one another.