Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Page 6 -- Cavalier View of Sportsmanship -- of the Tournament of Champions 2010 Day 6

Ron Beck's past editorial/opinion (I missed it last year, but it's back on the current home page), comparing the unsportsman-like conduct of Cleveland Cavalier's Lebron James against the Orlando Magic in last May's Game 6 loss in the playoffs to the sportsmanship exhibited in Squash, has prompted an examination of this element of squash so many seem to hold so dear. Watching these matches at the TOC these past few days, where good sportsmanship is exhibited in almost in every match, I realized Beck's comparison is too simplistic for such a complexity of issues. First and probably foremost, the stakes in NBA Basketball are much different than in squash, where players earn millions of dollars in salaries, bonus', and endorsements. At best, the top 10 squash players make a fraction of that. The millions of fans and would-be players who buy millions of dollars of Lebron James merchandize aren't interested in his sportsmanship, they're interested in his game and that he and his team wins. And basketball, like squash, is a product and it reflects those who watch it, play it, and live it. Sportsmanship learned from a role model in some suburban town is great, it's an easy lesson, but sportsmanship learned often on the streets, in playground pickup games, is a hard sell -- survival of the fittest, and sportsmanship is the least of a players concern when the money to be made is more than any of our squash sportsman combined will see in their lifetime. I don't want to get into the soci-economic implications of this, because it's way to complex for me to attempt, but there's a lot going on than simply that LeBron is a bad sport. Squash doesn't reflect life much except maybe the lives of a very small, often privileged group of people who lead very sheltered lives. Basketball reflects real life, and while I don't condone that bad sport conduct, it is what it is -- a product of the people who play it and the people who watch it. I would like to see how Peter Nicol and Jonathan Power played each other if at stake were piles of money and how they would play if they went to bed often times hungry and that squash was there only way out of significant economic challenges -- that is if their squash game was their only ticket out of hell. And in that hell who might their role models be, their fathers, their playground coaches? And I could just imagine the squash referees, if it seems players behavior is bad now, imagine a bad call is the difference in, what, say a half of a million dollars in prize money, such as that call that foot fault against Serena Williams at the U.S. Open this past year cost her. Oh, and if I were Beck, I'd be more concerned about updating his piece with the recent Wizard's Gilbert Arena's gun incident than LeBron's innocuous behavior because that's more a question of life and death rather than just being a bad sport.

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