Please con­duct your­self with class

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Patrick Saunders

Sports­man­ship.

When’s the last time you heard any­body use that word? TheMer­riam-Web­ster Dic­tionary de­fines it this way: “Con­duct (as fair­ness, re­spect for one’s op­po­nent, and gra­cious­ness in win­ning or los­ing) be­com­ing to one par­tic­i­pat­ing in a sport.”

Hall of Fame quar­ter­back­War­ren Moon put it more sim­ply: “Sports­man­ship is mak­ing sure you have re­spect for the guy you’re play­ing across from.”

I bring this up in the wake of an es­say that Hall of Fame third base­man Mike Sch­midt wrote last week for The As­so­ci­ated Press. Sch­midt took strong ex­cep­tion to the in­fa­mous bat flip by Toronto’s Jose Bautista in an Amer­i­can League play­off se­ries last year.

“Why do so many play­ers today feel the need to em­bel­lish their suc­cess with some sort of hand sig­nal to the dugout? What got more at­ten­tion in last year’s post­sea­son than a bat toss by Jose Bautista? Point­ing to the sky is child’s play com­pared to that mo­ment in the post­sea­son on na­tional TV. A fla­grant dis­re­spect of the op­po­nent like that would have got­ten some­body hurt back in the day.” Sch­midt is ex­actly right. Bautista’s bat flip­wasn’t sim­ply a cel­e­bra­tion of his dra­matic home run, it was flip­ping off the op­po­nent. Itwas a look-at-me mo­ment. Itwas con­trived. I can hear some of you now. “Get over it, Mr. “Get OffMy Lawn” Saunders. “It’s a new era, catch up to it.” “Base­ball’s dy­ing be­cause it’s mar­ried to a bor­ing past.”

I’ve heard all of those ar­gu­ments be­fore, and they’re bo­gus. There are some ab­so­lutes in life, and sports­man­ship should be one of them.

I thought the same thing at the end of the Su­per Bowl when Panthers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton acted like a 6year-old kid af­ter the Bron­cos kicked his be­hind. All of the end zone pranc­ing, prime-time bravado and show­ing up op­po­nents dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son dis­ap­peared in a pout.

New­ton didn’t credit the Bron­cos or con­grat­u­late them. He pulled on his hoodie, mum­bled and hid from the fact that his team got out­played.

There are, or course, plenty of con­tem­po­rary ath­letes who play the game the right way. Rockies third base­man Nolan Are­nado comes im­me­di­ately to mind.

He hit 42 home runs last year, and never once did he try to show up the pitcher. Ev­ery night he makes a high­light-reel play. His joy for the game, his ex­u­ber­ance, is con­ta­gious, and it comes nat­u­rally. Are­nado doesn’t have to flip his bat to cel­e­brate his love of the game or revel in a vic­tory.

Yan­kees Hall of Fame out­fielder Mickey Man­tle, hardly a choir boy, once said: “Af­ter I hit a home run I had a habit of run­ning the bases with my head down. I fig­ured the pitcher al­ready felt bad enough with­out me show­ing him up round­ing the bases.”

Sch­midt’s es­say con­tained this won­der­ful anec­dote:

“The great­est con­fronta­tion I ever saw on a base­ball field in­volved Pete (Rose) and an­other war­rior, Nolan Ryan. In 1981, the fi­nal game be­fore the mid­sea­son strike, Pete needed one hit to tie (Stan) Mu­sial for the all-time Na­tional League hit record, two to break it. Pete got that hit in his first at-bat, but Ryan struck him out his last three plate ap­pear­ances. I’ve never seen a hit­ter and pitcher more con­sumed in a con­fronta­tion. Af­ter the fi­nal strike­out, Pete tipped his hat to Nolan as a ges­ture of re­spect. Pas­sion, emo­tion, the crowd into ev­ery pitch, two of the game’s great­est ever leav­ing it all out there. No point­ing, ges­tur­ing, or bat flip­ping was needed, just com­pe­ti­tion at the highest level. That’s how you get the crowd in­volved, that’s how base­ball cre­ates its leg­ends.”

I un­der­stand that we live in an era of self­ies, self-pro­mo­tion and self-ex­pres­sion. I un­der­stand that the good ol’ days weren’t al­ways so good. But some things should pass the test of time; some things are worth hold­ing on to.

The late Dean Smith, the revered Hall of Fame bas­ket­ball coach, put it best: “A lion never roars af­ter a kill.” Patrick Saunders: psaun­ders @den­ver­post.com or @psaun­der­sdp

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