Sportsmanship matters.

The King & I

Sportsmanship matters because the way we treat each other matters. How we treat each other matters more than the score, the trophy, the plaque and the ribbon. How we treat others matters more than the standings. How we treat others affirms our standing in the world.

We know we should treat others well; we just choose not to. We choose to trip our opponents, yell slurs at the other team and drag passengers from airplanes. It’s as simple as this: Knowledge without proof is as worthless as muscles without use. So, what we KNOW better, we must DO better!

Sportsmanship matters because most of us will never win a championship, get elected to high office or even have our dream job. However, every interaction we have with another human being, on the field or otherwise, is an opportunity to make them feel like a champion. Sportsmanship matters because plaques break, trophies chip and banners get lost. Historic stadiums get torn down and replaced by billion-dollar palaces.

Sportsmanship matters because how we treat people has lasting impact. As a matter of fact, how we treat others lasts longer than the people themselves.

At the 2015 Musial Awards, Arnold Palmer, in one of his final public appearances, shared memories of his good friend, Stan Musial. He told the audience, which included members of the Musial Family, that if we lived our lives as Stan did, we will have really done something.

I don’t know where Palmer’s four green jackets are. I don’t know where Musial’s Cardinal-record 475th home run ball is, but I do know the kind of people Palmer and Musial were. I can clearly articulate the impact they’ve had on me and the kids I try to inspire every day.

That’s why how we treat each other matters. How we treat each other is forever. Sportsmanship is forever. That’s why sportsmanship matters.

St. Louis Blues show how sports teams can stop racism in its tracks

It was Game 1 of the Second Round of the 2017 NHL Western Conference Playoffs between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators last Wednesday night.  If you follow any team’s Twitter account, you know they live tweet key plays during games. This first tweet came from the Blues account after a Nashville score:

Not good news for the Blues, but there was still a lot of game left. A fan turned this into something else entirely by commenting about Predators defenseman, P.K. Subban, who is black. Subban gave the Blues all they could handle in Game 1 with one goal scored and two assists. That said, this nonsense was beyond the pale (Warning: The following contains content some readers may find offensive):

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My hometown team is not here for your racism:

The Blues could have easily ignored this as teams receive all kinds of ridiculous tweets that aren’t worth the trouble. However, St. Louis showed there is a line and they not only held the offending fan accountable, they also let everyone paying attention know where they stand.

After being called out for his racism, the fan responded:

Blues Twitter

Again, the Blues did not let hatred and ignorance off the hook:

The St. Louis Blues showed what sports teams can do to curb poor fan behavior and what we can all do to shut down racism. Hold offenders accountable even if they claim to be “joking.” It shouldn’t take a person of color to verify, most people know racism when they see it or hear it.

No matter what the game situation, the Blues made their expectations clear when fans interact with anyone, including opponents. St. Louis has set the bar. Let’s see if the rest of us can raise it!

2017 Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship Finalists

The St. Louis Sports Commission is proud to announce its 31 finalists for the Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship. Congratulations to these awesome young people. Winners will be named later this week. If you know any of these young people, please send them a kind word. They deserve it.

Positive Environments: St. Louis City sports facilities now smokeless tobacco free

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Welcome to the first installment of a section of the Sportsmanship Blog called “Positive Environments.” The Sportsmanship Foundation’s mission is to implement activities and programs that promote sportsmanship, create positive environments for kids to play sports, and help young people lead healthier, happier lives.

We are fully aware that we cannot create every positive environment on our own. There is a vast collection of community stakeholders who share our mission in spirit, even if they don’t know the words verbatim. Such is the case in the City of St. Louis; which passed an ordinance earlier this year prohibiting smokeless tobacco in all sports facilities.

The Major League Baseball season begins its regular season this week and the sport overall is rich in positive traditions – healthy activity, Sunday afternoons with the family and we can’t leave out a good supply of peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

However, the use of smokeless tobacco has been one of baseball’s less-than-healthy traditions. Smokeless tobacco contributes to the development of heart disease and well as several head and neck cancers. Fortunately, the tide is turning. Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, has been smoke-free since 2007 and is now the 14th MLB ballpark to ban smokeless tobacco as well.

The lasting impact, though, will be at the youth level. If kids don’t see smokeless tobacco at their games used by coaches, parents and other adults, they are less likely to pick up the habit. The youth and professional games are very different, but this is one instance where kids can emulate their favorite ballplayer any day of the week.

Thanks to the City of St. Louis, the St. Louis Cardinals, Major League Baseball and the American Heart Association for helping to make St. Louis City sports facilities positive environments for kids.

THAT sports parent is getting all the attention and it’s not good for anyone

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A certain sports parent has a few kids who are really good at basketball. He knows it and the world knows it. The parent uses the attention paid to his sons’ remarkable talent to get booked on sports shows from coast to coast.

The parent gets into arguments over ridiculous topics. He recently said his oldest son is a better basketball player right now than Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James.

He’s not.

Full disclosure, I have not seen the oldest son play one second of college basketball, but Stevie Wonder could see the gaslighting taking place here. Gaslighting, as defined by Psychology Today, is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.

It looks easy at first. LeBron James, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook are not only three of the best players in the NBA, they have talent comparable to the all-time greats.  You’re about to debate a guy whose kid hasn’t been through an NBA workout, let alone played in a game.

Piece of cake, right? Wrong. At the end of the argument, you’ll wind up trying to prove why water is wet. We all know water is wet, but prove it. Go ahead. It’s best to have a working parachute as you begin your descent into madness.

Meanwhile, the sports parent just gobbled up 30 minutes of nationwide airtime. He’s trending on Twitter and people are sharing clips of him making a complete fool of you.

It’s been written in this space before, but bears repeating: Overbearing parents don’t help their kids in the long run. In the age of more sports channels than we can possibly watch, sports websites, blogs and social media, being loud and obnoxious isn’t the way to get your kid noticed.

If your kid’s any good, coaches already know. They’re all looking for that kid no one else has discovered. They scour different sites and watch hours and hours of video. Coach has already imagined your kid wearing his uniform.

Creating and maintaining a positive home environment so your kids can pursue their dreams is the best thing any parent can do.

You never want the coach’s notes to read, “Good kid. Solid handles. Can shoot from anywhere, plays great defense. Works hard. But his dad…”