This week Johnny Morris began walking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail – from Georgia to Maine, which should take about four months. He’s doing it to raise money for a nonprofit called MemoryCare, which offers high-quality, affordable care for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. MemoryCare was founded by his mother, Dr. Margaret Noel in 2000, and has grown to a staff of 18 and serves about 1,000 patients. Johnny has seen the impact this local nonprofit makes in western North Carolina and wanted to join his mother’s efforts in a tangible way. The Code says, “I will give of my time, skill, and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” Both Dr. Noel and Johnny are making an impact in their corner of the world – what can you do in yours? Is there something your team can do? What is going on in your community that needs your support?
We all know that administrators cheated in putting together the Jackie Robinson West Little League team. And we all know that the Code says “I will play within the letter and spirit of the rules of my sport.” In this case there is a larger point: the team bears the name of Jackie Robinson. Robinson is known as one of the great moral leaders in US history. To bear his name is to bear the responsibility to be worthy of that name. To bring shame and dishonor to the team is to have his name associated with that shame and dishonor. We are always playing not just for ourselves and our teammates – we are responsible for the reputation of the team whose name we bear. Ask your team: What does it mean to you to be a member of our team? What does the name mean to you? Are you proud of that name? How can you honor those who have worn your team’s uniform in the past by the way you play?
The world of sports suffered a loss with the news of the death of Dean Smith; his life deserves a moment of reflection. As the basketball coach at University of North Carolina from 1961-1997 his teams won numerous ACC titles, and two national championships. The simplest way to communicate his meaning to the game is to recognize that he was one of the original five members of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, the others being Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, John Wooden and Dr. James Naismith.
More important than his greatness as a coach was his greatness as a human being. Larry Brown said, “He was the most decent man I ever knew.” Smith was a leader in desegregation in Chapel Hill and recruited the first black athlete at UNC. He was outspoken in his opposition to the war in Vietnam, to the death penalty, and nuclear weapons. In hearing of his death, Michael Jordan said, “Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach — he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to [Smith’s wife] Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”
What words would you most want said about you when you die? When others are talking about Dean Smith, they talk not about what a great coach he was, but what a great human being he was. His legacy is that which we hope for everyone in sports, and that is of “Winning More Than The Game.”
“I will compete within the spirit and letter of the rules of my sport.”
Someone cheated. So far, no one knows who deflated the balls of the New England Patriots, but it was done. The rules are clear, and a violation of the rules is cheating. It’s not gamesmanship, it’s cheating.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Rafael Nadal was desperately trying to win: it was 6-5 in the fifth set against American Tim Smyczek. As Nadal tossed the ball to serve a spectator screamed out, and the serve was no good. Rather than have Nadal then serve his second serve, Smyczek held up play and held up two fingers – the tennis sign that he wanted to let Nadal have his first serve over. The referee yielded to the wish, and Nadal proceeded to serve, and eventually to win the game. After four hours of play, when Nadal prevailed in the end, the first thing he said after the win was a word of praise for the good sportsmanship Tim had demonstrated.
There is a difference between the “letter” of the rules and the “spirit” of the rules. Good sportsmanship means living by that higher standard. When footballs are deflated, it is not just the rules that are broken; it is the integrity of the game that is at stake. When we live by the spirit of the rules, we will inevitably represent the best in ourselves and in the game we love. What are some ways the rules are compromised in your sport? What do you think about it?
Martin Luther King’s birthday was shared in part by a controversy: Miss Lebanon had her picture taken with Miss Israel at the Miss Universe pageant in Miami. This caused outrage to some. Meanwhile, McDonald’s is running a new commercial series of “Arch Enemies” – Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, Wiley Coyote and Road Runner, Batman and the Joker, even a Green Bay Packer fan and a Chicago Bear fan – who all become reconciled and share some fast food, while a song “Love is endless” plays on. Those “enemies” found something they had in common, and the barriers came down.
We know the Code says, “I will respect the dignity of every human being…” and yet in all of our hearts lurks one form or another of prejudice. The challenge is not just to respect the dignity of another, or to tolerate those who are different, it is to come to see and appreciate what it is that the other person has that will enrich my life. That takes more than tolerance; it takes a willingness to be open to the possibility that my life can be changed and enriched by those who are different, whether it be because of race, nationality, religion or age. Can you open yourself today in a new way to a person who is different, and seek to know them, so that your own life may be enriched? It’s one way to grow, to make the world a better place, and to honor Dr. King.
When TCU had the ball with a first and goal against Iowa State at the end of the most important game of the year (Would they make the playoff?), Coach Gary Patterson had his quarterback take a knee. And again. And again. Why? Because they had won the game, and there was nothing to be gained by running up the score. Urban Meyer had the same choice and chose to score again against Oregon as time ran out. It was a classic display of poor sportsmanship. Grantland Rice wrote “When the One Great Scorer marks beside your name, He marks not that you won nor lost, but how you played the game.” Rice means the only thing more important than the score is “how you played the game.” Did you play fair, give your best effort, treat your opponent with respect and win with grace and dignity? In this case a great team effort and win was marred by the coach’s decision. What do you think?
Two weeks ago quarterback Case Keenum was deer hunting on a day off as a member of the St. Louis Rams practice squad. He was traded to the Houston Texans,and less than a week later started and won as their quarterback, and then again won this past Sunday. Meanwhile, Johnny Manziel has been going through a tough time, and is apologizing for not trying harder and being better prepared. Does the Code have anything to say about this? You could say, “I will develop my skills to the best of my ability” applies; or, you might say, “I will display caring and honorable behavior…” or “I will be a positive influence on my teammates…” Case Keenum is an example of a very talented young athlete who could not quite make it, but kept working and developing his skills. When his opportunity came, he was able to succeed. It’s the old story of the “Little Engine That Could.” What are some ways that you are trying to succeed, but are not successful yet? Will you keep on keeping on?
There is a great controversy now because N. Korea has apparently hacked the Sony website, revealed personal emails, intimidated Sony and theaters into not releasing the movie The Interview. They did this because the film is disrespectful of the North Korean President. This is a major international problem – more than free speech, including ultimately national security. We are not going to discuss the political challenges. However, in this country we are used to making fun of political leaders – is that right? What are the limits of free speech? When does good-natured fun and joking become abusive bullying? We all say things to our friends about others that we would not want repeated, but what can we do to become more responsible individuals? What do you do when you hear inappropriate things said? What can you do?
While TCU was on their way to defeating Iowa State 55-3, they found themselves with a first and goal. They then “took a knee” for four plays turning the ball over on downs. At a time when a spot in the playoff was very much in play, Coach Patterson chose to demonstrate true sportsmanship, and respect for the other team. We have all played in one-sided games when we have won easily or been crushed. The temptation for the winning team is to want to continue to score when there is no longer any doubt about the outcome. What are some games like this that come to your mind that you have been in? How did it feel to win in those circumstances? How did it feel to lose in those circumstances? What does “Winning More Than The Game” mean to you in this case?
A few weeks ago Peyton Manning was upset by the fact that during the game the scoreboard operator showed his teammates celebrating, and also a shot of the opposing quarterback on the sideline, who was then booed by the fans. Peyton was outspoken after the game in saying that he thought that doing that was disrespectful of the player, and that the scenes of players dancing was inappropriate during the game, similar to taunting. The Code reminds us to be respectful, and to display honorable behavior. Peyton could have said nothing; instead, he took the opportunity to express his displeasure. When are some times when things have happened that you did not approve of? Did you speak up? Can Peyton serve as an example of courage for you?