Monday, February 22, 2010
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster…”
by John Alexander Madison
February 22, 2010
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”
These words, from Rudyard Kilping’s poem “If,” welcome every tennis player who has had the honor of walking on to the famed Centre Court at Wimbledon, England. They also help us distinguish between good and bad sportsmanship.
Repeat super combined downhill Gold medalist skier (2006 & 2010) Lindsey Vonn’s second medal at this year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC was awarded for her third place finish in the Super G event. Although favored to win, she was excited with her Bronze medal and, it should be noted, she was gracious in “defeat.”
In contrast, we have favored figure skating Gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko from Russia. If he had repeated his 2006 Gold medal winning effort after coming out of retirement the world would have appreciated and applauded his remarkable performance. Instead, I believe, most observers cheered his Gold medal loss. I certainly did. His lack of good sportsmanship (and arrogance) was exceeded only by that of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kipling’s poem included this phrase too: “…And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss...” It’s quite apparent that Pluschenko never read Kipling or if he had, he didn’t learn a thing.
In a highlight of the first week of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Evan Lysacek became the first U.S. man to win the Olympic gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988, by upsetting defending champion Evgeni Plushenko. But keep in mind, Evan is the reigning World Champion and he won his Olympic Gold medal by outskating the defending champion. He was humble and gracious in victory.
Kudos also to U.S. Olympics medalists Apollo Ohno, Julia Mancuso, Shani Davis, Hannah Teter, Chad Hedrick, Seth Wescott, Kelly Clark, Scotty Lago, Hannah Kearney, Andrew Weibrecht, Shannon Bahrke, J.R. Selski, Shaun White, Bode Miller, Bryon Wilson, and also to Magdalena Neuner (Germany), Andrea Fischbacher (Austria), Torah Bright (Australia), Mark Tuitert and Ireen Wust (The Netherlands), Simon Ammann (Switzerland), and so many other 2010 Olympians who had success in Vancouver while exhibiting great sportsmanship.
May the name Evgeni Plushenko be merely a footnote in history or perhaps his photo displayed in the dictionary next to the words “bad sportsmanship”, right next to Serena Williams (ref. U.S.Open 2009). They are both great athletes and, along with Tiger Woods and many professional athletes, spoiled brats. My advice to Evgeni: Go home and whine to Vlad…you’ll have a sympathetic ear.
To Olympic athletes from around the world, thank you for your years of training and dedication to your goals and for these two weeks of exceptional entertainment. But remember, there is more to life than sports. And good sportsmanship should apply in business, in government and in our everyday lives.
Do you know the origin of the phrase “It matters not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game”?
The expression about how one plays the game is a Greek historian’s fifth-century B.C. reference to the Olympians. He wrote, “tis not for Money they contend, but for Glory.” This resurfaced in1927 when sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote, “For when the great scorer comes to write against your name, He marks not that you won or lost but how you played the game.” Amen.
Footnote: Thirty years ago this Wednesday (Feb 24, 1980) the USA Hockey team defeated Finland (after a 4-3 semi-final win over Soviets) by a score of 4-2. Could another U.S. Gold medal victory be in the cards? On the one hand that would be nice. On the other hand, I’d hate to see a grown man (President Putin) cry, yet again.
Thanks for the memories Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig, Coach Herb Brooks, & Co.!