Today is National Sportsmanship Day. The theme for 2010 is Competitive Self-Restraint. It means compete hard but maintain your self-control and play within the rules. Four wonderful young people ranging from elementary school to college are winners in this year’s USA Today Sportsmanship Essay Contest. You can read their takes on competitive self-restraint and other sportsmanship topics by clicking here. The subject seemed rather tough to tackle at first, but a clear example of competitive restraint came to me pretty quickly – boxing.
I know. How can boxing be an example of competitive self-restraint? They’re fighting for crying out loud. One athlete is trying to knock the other out or at the very least make him do some funny standing up. That’s precisely why boxing is such a great example. Self-preservation is a natural human instinct. When someone is physically hurting us, we will do anything to make them stop. In boxing, it’s not allowed. Let’s say an opponent is punching you in the face repeatedly but you are not fast enough to hit him back or get away from him. You can’t resort to kicking or wrestling.
The sport has severe penalties for using anything other than clenched fists inside padded gloves. Fighters can be fined up to 10% of their purses and have their boxing licenses revoked. Moreover, boxing passes the “eye” test. Great fighters stick to their game plan even when an opponent is hurt. Others have asked the referee to stop fights when it was clear the opponent could no longer defend himself. I have watched most of the major fights for the last 20 years. In that time, I do not remember an occasion when one boxer did not go over and hug the other after a fight.
We should all take a lesson from the sweet science. Those of us who score goals, hit home runs, and catch touchdowns would do well to calm down sometimes. Besides, allowing a game-winning three-pointer is much easier to take than a three-punch combination. Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!