Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dude, It's Ok!

As someone who has been involved in youth sports in a variety of capacities, as parent, as coach, and as a general volunteer, I can tell you that we are lucky to live in a Village where teamwork is stressed and sportsmanship is king.  This past weekend, as a matter of fact, I took child #2 to his lacrosse game at a visiting field and was thrilled to see both teams play hard but in a manner that was considerate of each other. Case in point:  my son, the goalie, blocked a shot.  WITH HIS THIGH.  He went down to his knees, his helmeted head on the ground and lay still for a few minutes to wait for the pain to subside.  (And yes, it took every ounce of self control I had not to get up, run across the field, arms flailing, yelling "Honey?  Are you ok?")  Finally, he got up, a little shaky, and returned to goal.  But before play could resume, the kid on the other team--the one who had taken the shot that had felled my son--walked over and put his arm around my son's shoulder.  Their conversation went something like this:

"Dude.  I'm sorry."

"Dude.  It's ok."

They are men of few words but the words spoken are enough.

Later, when the other goalie was carried off the field by his coach, having been hit so many times in the knee that he could no longer stand--yes, lacrosse is a rough game--all of the kids on the field, from both teams, went down on one knee and applauded his efforts in goal, inquiring after the game if he was ok.

I admit, I had brought the Sunday papers to the game so I could read during the numerous breaks in the action.  And there are a lot in lacrosse.  I turned to the back page of the paper where sports are reported and saw a headline about the New York Yankees' catcher, Jorge Posada.  Posada is a long-time member of the team, a crucial part of the Yankee dynasty, but is now 39 years old and a little brittle.  All those years behind the plate, crouched down, take a toll on one's body.  So this year, he has been relegated to designated hitter status mostly, coming out and hitting in the line up for the pitcher.

Until this past weekend.

It was a crucial three-game series against the Red Sox, the Yankees' chief nemesis.  (Let me state right here that I am not--and was never--a Yankee fan.  However, I do not go so far as to root for the Red Sox.  I have my limits.)  Posada, hitting in the .160 range--which is bad for those of you who don't follow baseball--was dropped by manager Joe Girardi to the number nine spot in the batting order.  Back in the day, Posada hit somewhere in the three-to-six range of the line up, so nine was definitely a demotion.  But what Posada did next stunned everyone.

He refused to play.

Thinking that the number nine spot in the line up was some kind of assault on his manhood and pride, he chose instead to bench himself.  He basically took his bat and his ball and went home.

Suffice it to say, this created a stir in the New York sports world.  The manager commented.  The general manager commented.  His teammates commented and some even defended him.  His wife took to Twitter to say that he had a bad back and wasn't a bad sport.  He later confessed that he didn't have a bad back, was indeed a bad sport, apologized, and said it would never happen again.

But it happened in the first place and that's what matters.

I follow New York sports very closely and listen to sports radio a fair amount so I can tell you that in general, Jorge Posada is a nice, upstanding guy.  He does a lot of charity work.  He keeps his nose clean. He has a tight-knit family.  I'm inclined to give him a past because this was clearly an aberration and not his usual classy way of handling things.  But what went wrong in his brain this past weekend to make him do such a bone-headed thing?  I guess it's pride.  It got the better of him.

The kids and I talked about this and I was happy that neither thought that what he had done was justified. The whole situation was interesting to me, however, because in one weekend, I saw more class and guts from a group of twelve-year-olds on a muddy lacrosse field than from a guy who makes fourteen million dollars a year to go to bat four times in one game, five if the game goes into extra innings.

So this post has nothing to do with writing and I don't have a question to pose but I wanted to take the opportunity to give a shout-out to the kids out there who put sportsmanship before pride and play hard each and every game.  For free.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Maggie, it does have something to do with writing, in that good sportsmanship (aka, good conduct) is important whatever you're doing. Being a prima donna or a jerk does not bode well for anyone, whether you're a baseball player who refuses to take his turn at bat (no matter your place in the lineup) or an author who hogs the microphone during a panel. So, see! It's totally relevant. ;-) And I'm always happy to hear about kids behaving well since we hear about kids (of all ages) behaving badly all too often. Wonderful post, as always. :-)

  2. Good point, Susan! Thanks for reminding me about the connection between writing and sportsmanship. And I love reporting on kids behaving well. We hear so much about kids not doing what they are supposed to that it was so refreshing to be able to talk about some really great sports out there. Maggie

  3. Sports also allow even the spectators to show admirable behavior like the crowd at a pro baseball game on Disabilities night. I forgot which teams were playing but when the young man with autism forgot the lyrics in the middle of the national anthem the crowd started singing with him. When he finished he got an ovation.

  4. Oh, Warren, I love that story! It gives me goosebumps!

  5. Just when I think I'm too cynical, I hear stories like these which tell me That I'm right. I'm too cynical; and there is good in a lot of places. So lovely when it shows up, thank you.