John McCain knew the importance of sportsmanship

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America lost a true hero, patriot and statesman on Saturday with the passing of Senator John McCain. He was 81.

Other outlets will chronicle his military and congressional career much better than can be done here. This space is dedicated to sportsmanship and John McCain was a good sport.

He attended the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix and was asked to speak to a group of young basketball players before the event. Please keep in mind this took place only three months after the 2008 Presidential Election. Here’s what he said to the kids as first reported by the Deseret News:

“I went through a pretty tough game for a couple of years myself and didn’t win, but I’d also like to point out that the person who did win deserves the support of all Americans,” said McCain, who lost the presidential election to Barack Obama in November. “And I think that’s how we have to treat our opponents. We play as hard as we can, we work as hard as we can. We do everything that we can, but when the game is over, then show the respect and sportsmanship and support, in this case.”

Senator McCain put country before himself and understood that his opponents are not his enemies. America’s greatness lies in her people and John McCain was one of the greatest.

Rest in Peace, Senator and Godspeed.

 

 

Lebron James gives grounded, realistic speech to youth team

Almost no one gets two posts in a row, but LeBron James is on a roll. In the following video posted by D-Rich TV on Instagram, LeBron gives a seemingly dejected youth squad a hard lesson about what it means to know your role and be a team player.

Yes, LeBron had to be edited. No, he didn’t quite use the language recommended for people who work with kids. However, his message, in this case, is no less effective. He’s in the circle with the kids. LeBron has his arms around them and they’re looking him right in the eye; soaking up everything he’s giving them.

The kids know his message is coming from a place of love. They have no doubt he wants them to be successful and he cares about them. Before a coach utters a word, the kids have to know this. They have to know you love them. They have to know you understand what troubles them and that you’re telling them the truth.

LeBron accomplishes in 30 seconds what many coaches don’t master in decades working with kids. Watch and learn as King James holds court.

LeBron is the greatest sports role model of all time

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With the opening of his I Promise school in Akron, Ohio this week, LeBron James solidified his legacy as the greatest sports role model of all time. LeBron is the role model Charles Barkley told us he wouldn’t be. He’s the role model Shaquille O’Neal was too silly to be and Kobe Bryant was too selfish to be.

LeBron is the role model Tim Duncan was too quiet to be. He’s the role model Tiger is too reclusive to be and Magic is too corporate to be. LeBron is the role model Cam Newton is too immature to be, Floyd Mayweather is too greedy to be, and, quite frankly, Tom Brady doesn’t have to be.

LeBron is the role model Michael Jordan just flat out refused to be.

To be fair, every one of the athletes mentioned above is passionate about something other than their chosen sport. Their advocacy, however, doesn’t rise to the level of the man nicknamed “King James.” Athletes care about education, criminal justice reform, and poverty among other things. Any of these issues is a heavy lift. LeBron has taken them all on.

LeBron is an active supporter of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America while running a fully-functioning charitable organization of his own – aptly named the LeBron James Family Foundation. Graduates of LeBron’s I Promise school have the opportunity to earn a full scholarship to the University of Akron. He’s already pledged $42 million to the project which could see at least 2,300 young people benefit.

He’s also never been afraid to stand up and take a side on controversial issues. LeBron has made his voice heard relative to Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and other high-profile cases. Whether one agrees with every position he takes or not, he does take a position and uses his platform to draw attention to the people and issues he holds dear.

An excuse made for athletes over time has been they don’t want to risk their contracts and endorsements by taking a stance that might alienate fans. LeBron doesn’t fear fan backlash. His principles don’t adjust according to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Oddly enough, LeBron the philanthropist doesn’t conflict with LeBron the brand. He’s the face of the NBA, his apparel sells well and he’s expanded into television production.

Some will disagree with this assessment and point toward Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and other luminaries of the Civil Right Movement as greater role models. Those times were different as Ali, Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had each other and multiple organizations backing them up. LeBron is in his playing prime, his earning prime and often, he stands alone on social issues.

And Ali wasn’t as loved when he was an active athlete as LeBron is now. Ali’s legend had an inverse relationship to the power of his voice. In short, people revered him more as he got sicker and quieter. LeBron will dunk on your favorite player during the game and dare anyone else to touch a hair on his head afterwards.

He defends the marginalized and his peers. LeBron is also a devoted family man to his wife and three children. He represents the kind of activist, fierce competitor and role model today’s adults should have had 30 years ago.

 

The biggest issue facing youth sports

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The parents are fighting the kids, coaches, referees and other parents. Beyond scarce resources and injury risks while playing, the biggest threat to youth sports is parental violence. No one is going to allow their child to play on a team or in a league where they aren’t safe.

The time for being diplomatic about it is over. Adults need to set a better example and stop the violence. If we can’t, then our kids won’t play. It’s that simple…

Brawl between players and referees shows lack of home training

A massive brawl broke out Sunday between an AAU team and the referees at the end of a tournament in Georgia. Here, unfortunately, is a clip from the melee:

To make it plain, the team on the floor, the R.A.W. Athletics team from Chicago, lacks what my mother would call “home training.” For the uninitiated, home training is the type of social instruction parents provide young people; teaching them how to respect others and themselves.

Home training includes the usage of the words sir and ma’am. We were taught to never raise our voices to an adult, much less our fists. If there was a problem with a coach, teacher, referee or other authority figure, our parents told us to bring it to them and they would handle the issue.

My mom once told me, “Son, you could be 100% right and the adult could be as wrong as two left shoes, but you’re a child. And a child needs to stay in a child’s place.” This line of thinking may seem archaic, but I was a teenager in the 90’s, so it wasn’t that long ago.

What our parents taught us was a precursor to knowing your role. Kids are not adults and should never take on the adult role, in high pressure situations or otherwise. The kids on the R.A.W. team were losing the game and they were frustrated. Instead of clenching their jaws and huffing and puffing to themselves as a lot of kids would do, they stepped out of their role.

In the video, you may have noticed two kids in darker uniforms standing beyond half court. They disappeared from view as the situation deteriorated. Those were kids from the opposing team. Their coach pulled them from the floor and got them away from the fight.

The R.A.W. kids showed they don’t know how to handle a loss, don’t know how to respect adults and don’t care what others think of them or their community. This has to change. Kids who can’t be controlled by their parents and coaches often end up controlled by the criminal justice system.

Leagues of all types are having problems finding referees. Due to the behavior of the kids, parents and coaches, fewer and fewer people want to be refs because of the abuse they take.

This is on us as adults. We have to stop saying the refs are cheating us when we don’t get a call. Even if the official missed the call, what we’re saying aloud is other adults are intentionally trying to cheat kids. Young people take what we say as the gospel truth.

They hear every word we say about the refs and what we wish we could do to the refs. We have to stop. We have to give our kids the home training that was given to us. If not, there won’t be any games. And it won’t be because of concussions, lack of facilities or equipment. It’ll be because kids, parents and coaches don’t know how to act.

 

Can civility thrive in the midst of chaos?

“The idea of America is in constant conflict with the reality of America.” – D.L. Hughley

Civility was trending on Twitter Monday night. After clicking through the hashtag, I was inspired to write the following tweet:

Civility is one of the core principles of sportsmanship – right along with integrity, respect and fair play. Civility, or the lack thereof, has become political fodder for reasons I won’t get into on this page. Google it if you have the time (or patience).

Truth be told, civility has been lacking in America for about 242 years give or take. We romanticize about days gone by when people were nicer to each other while leaving out chattel slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Tuskegee Experiment, Japanese internment camps, the 3/5 Compromise, Black Codes, Jim Crow, Redlining, the Vietnam War and dozens of other examples when Americans could have been nicer and more polite to others.

In sports, we pine for the days when football players used to hand the ball to the referee after scoring a touchdown instead of doing all kinds of wild dances and routines. Yet, the only person we can ever think of doing that consistently is Barry Sanders. On the other hand, Terrell Owens’ antics are legendary and were shown over and over again on highlight shows.

Rob Gronkowski spikes the ball so hard, one may eventually explode. And that’s what we do in the larger society. It’s not enough to win. We have to spike the football. We have to rub the other guy or girl’s face in it and they have to be nice about it. They have to accept it. They have to be good sports about it.

That’s not how sportsmanship nor civility works. How you treat others should be divorced of contest outcomes. Treat people like human beings regardless of what the scoreboard reads.

How did we get here, though? Apathy is how. Too many people don’t care and/or gave up and left the extremists in place. America has 230 million eligible voters. In 2016, 100 million people did not exercise the franchise. But what does that have to do with anything?

I challenge you do no nothing to 40% of your house for the next four years. I mean nothing. Don’t clean or clutter it. Don’t even go in it. Go back in after four years and see what that section of your house looks like. Inhale what it smells like. There’s a good chance whatever’s taken root in the neglected section of the place has spread elsewhere.

Sports has been taken over by extremist elements as well. Parents who released their kids to the game and told them to be home by the time the streetlights come on have been replaced by ex-service members who punch kids. There are more adults making a living in youth sports than ever, but 70% of kids quit sports by age 13. These trends have to change.

Civility has two meanings. The first, which is mostly discussed here, focuses on being polite and courteous to others. The second definition refers to the civic duties of a citizen. Greater civility means being nicer and being more engaged. More people need to vote, coach youth teams, attend community meetings, and generally care what happens to others.

Civility is not a weapon you swing at people when you want them to heel. It’s a tool used to help build others up.

Baseball player delays team celebration to console a friend

Some sportsmanship stories need an explanation. Others just need you to watch, listen and share with a friend. This is one of the others…