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all-star-game-2014

While the rest of the world was on All-Star Break last week, we were in the thick of things. The Twin Cities hosted the All-Star Game with all its attendant events, and it was thrilling. From the Home Run Derby to the star-studded parties to the All-Star Game, the adrenaline was high.

With half of this year’s All-Star team being first-time qualifiers, it was so cool to watch the dynamic unfold. Sure, they were competitive and some showed-off. But you could see that they all genuinely cared about being there. I thought one of the highlights of the festivities was the tribute to New York Yankee Derek Jeter. As almost everyone (baseball fan or not) knows, Mr. Jeter is retiring after this year. So this was his last All-Star appearance as a player. The outpouring of respect for the man known as “Captain Clutch” was really something to behold, and learn from.

Most of the players and fans in that stadium that night have come up against Mr. Jeter in the past – and have come up short. Nevertheless, in the spirit of sportsmanship, those differences were put aside to pay homage to a man who deserves their respect.

Sportsmanship has taken some hits over the years. Most recently, there was the bite-seen-round-the-world, when Uruguay’s Luis Suarez bit an Italian opponent during a World Cup game. It was scandalous, and deservedly so.

Sports are big business and the win-at-all-costs mentality is increasingly evident. I may be naïve, but I believe this is a short term strategy with negative long-term repercussions.

I believe that healthy competition is good and even necessary to succeed. A worthy competitor keeps you focused and challenges you to bring your best game. But at no time does the desire to win justify unsportsmanlike behavior.

Bob Ley, ESPN’s longest tenured sportscaster, sums it up nicely:

“Simply trying to define sportsmanship, I think most folks would agree,’ responsibility and self-respect,’ qualities that today seem in short supply at times. If character is what you do when no one is watching, then perhaps sportsmanship is that conduct with everybody watching. Frankly, the sports industry would probably survive without sportsmanship. It’s so large and so well financed, but it would be refreshing if more parents and coaches, more administrators and more journalists, and especially more players realized there is room to win with flare and style and even get rich and still keep the values that first brought us here to the games.”

The only thing I can add to this is: Play ball!