Local Voices: Sports’ Celebrations and Traditions

The Olympics and sports origins are traced back centuries as a form of entertainment and a pleasurable distraction for the people.

Many of today’s athletes have taken sports victory exhibitions to the darker side of our human nature. Some who their struggled to make it (out) against all odds, have forgotten the basic humility aspects that made sports great in the first place.

Athletes are role models – examples our young see on television daily, whether they want to be or not, Mr. Charles Barkley. Sports traditions, respect for one’s opponent, and overall sportsmanship have always been critical elements of the shared human experience of sports and its competition, even at its most heated.

Ancient athletes often gave each other gifts before and after competitions. They may have warred with or even disliked one another; yet they were more often than not, happy with a victory. They were graciously respectful in victory and defeat.  They remembered the pain of losing and were gentlemen enough not to celebrate in an unseemly fashion.

For far too many of today’s overpaid championship less athletes, it is not enough to win a sporting event and beat an opponent. They seek to embarrass and humiliate their opponents to build their overall brand. Play-by-play, they endlessly trash talk to the point of fist fights, ejections, and suspensions.

Fans don’t come to see that or to see coaches coach or referees ref. We come to see players play to their best of their abilities and be inspired. We come to see less talented underdog teams bond together in brotherhood and sisterhood, regardless of race. We cheer when they overcome more talented teams through hard work, persistence, sacrifice, team play, will power and desire. This is the essence of sports.

I support all players’ first amendment rights to peacefully speak out as they see fit. Many sports fans are turned off and weary of the way current players are faking hustling celebrating anything and everything, down to the most basic of non-plays.

The “high- five” was always a good team celebration between two teammates. Pointing to the person who made the assist pass applauded this selflessness act and was originated by Dean Smith and his UNC teams in the 1970’s. Those traditional respectful team celebrations were easily recognized, by a younger generation of fans. Note that those celebrations did not seek to bring attention to oneself, nor were they self-aggrandizing and potentially injurious.

Contrast the moronic “chest bump,” of today, where two or more players jump at each other in the air. Bumping chests is energy wasteful, dangerous and one of the most foolish things sports has ever produced. Players should save all those “fake hustle” jumps and landings for the actual game.

Bench players are there to support their teammates and play, should they be needed. Bench players are not there to be a distraction or take focus away from playing and winning the game. We sports fans have seen countless of these nonsensical celebrations needlessly end in injury.

By no means is this a censoring of team celebrations. It is simply a proposal that celebrations should have merit, show respect and make sense.  Making a play does not always require a celebration- it is what you are supposed to do. History’s most respected players and athletes have always let their play do the talking for them and their game.

Today we have too many mindless “hot-doggers” detracting from the flow of the beauty of the games, through their own self-absorption. Here is a basic rule of thumb for all athletes; if you don’t want to be disrespected, don’t disrespect others through your celebrations. Don’t do anything to an opponent that you wouldn’t want done to you.

Most importantly, at the end of a game, no matter how hotly contested it may have been, we have to be able to come together out of mutual competitive respect with a handshake for our opponent to honor the history of our games. In this way, traditional sports will continue to serve as a shared celebration and as an effective pressure relief valve for society. It is only because we honor each other as much or more as we honor ourselves, that we will continue to leave the games better than we found them.

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide  for eighteen years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available via e-mail at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com and he does make large-scale solutions presentations upon request.

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