Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Lesson of Sara Tucholsky

Softball season is just around the corner. And although it was, shall we say, suggested by my Doctor and PT that it may be a good idea to wait a few months before playing, I choose to ignore both of them and start the season on time. Besides, I just bought a new bat and my wife would be pissed if I didn't use it.

Now, back in the day I was sort of a hot head when it came to sports. When I started pitching, since I could throw a little harder than the other kids, I got cocky. And when someone got a decent hit off of me, the next time I wouldn't rule out a pitch up by their chin. And if one of our batters got plunked, well it was guaranteed that the next hitter I faced was gonna get an inside pitch. My Dad finally cured me of this, saying that that wasn't the way to get respect anymore. "Strike them out, and it's all the statement you need." So I learned to throw a changeup, and heeded his Obi-Wan like advice.

Though even though I was a hot head, one thing I always had was a very good sense of sportsmanship. Not once did I refuse to shake hands at the end of the game. If someone hits a homerun for the other team in softball, I congratulate them on the "nice shot". If someone on the other team makes a good play, I let them know about it. Even when I was throwing at people back in the day, I still would tip my hat to them at the end of the game if they finished ahead of us.

I feel today that sportsmanship is getting less and less emphasis. Kids are getting better at sports at a younger age thanks to multiple off season sport camps, weight training being taught younger, and the "fun" aspect of the sports are getting lost at a younger age. The emphasis is all about winning, and you learn early on that you do what it takes to get to that. And with that attitude, sportsmanship is getting put on the back burner.

Or is it?

2 years ago there was a Division II fastpitch softball double header going on. It was the second game, and the teams were locked at 0-0. It should also be mentioned that these teams were 1 and 2 on the depth chart of the league, so it had postseason implications as well. Then a player by the name of Sara Tucholsky came to bat. She was a petite thing, standing a shade over 5'2". It was her senior year, and she was a part time starter due to the teams depth at outfield. Anyhow, the story goes that she had never hit a homerun in her entire career, so wouldn't you know that with 2 runners on, she goes and jacks a pitch straight over the center field fence. Her first homerun of her career was a big one, putting her team up 3 runs over their division rival. However, in her excitement she overran first on her homerun trot and went back to touch it again. In the process, she steps wrong and tears her ACL and crumples in a heap short of first. By league rules, her teammates cannot touch her otherwise she will be declared out. While her teammates are arguing with the umpires about this dumbass rule and everyone is trying to figure out what to do (Sara was adamant no one touch her so that the books would show that she hit a homerun), the opposing teams pitcher and shortstop walk over with the pitcher asking, "Would it be OK if we carry her to each base?" The umpires agree that this is acceptable, so sacrificing another run, the opposing players help their opponent complete her homerun trot. Video of all of this can be found on YouTube.

Our generation is seemingly starting to relearn the fun aspect of sports. No longer is the emphasis all about winning; it's about having fun and realizing you're playing a game. With Daven watching, I too have toned down my highly competitive streak. Yes I still take pride in the game and want to do my best all the time, but when the game is over, regardless of the outcome, I shake the opponents hand and "leave it on the field". It's the way my Dad taught me to play, and I hope to take that lesson and the lesson learned from Sara's story and teach Daven that way as well.

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