Thursday, May 01, 2008

Being a Good Sport

If you ever wondered what it means to be a good sport, I have a story for you. (Warning, this made me cry.) Being a good sport is not just playing according to the rules. It is not just about not throwing a tantrum when you lose. It is about wanting everyone to play their best, even if they are on the other team.
Sara Tucholsky, a member of the Western Oregon University softball team, was at bat with one strike and two runners on base, while playing Central Washington University last Saturday. She whacked her first home run clear over the fence. The teams had been tied at zero, so it was even better. In her excitement, she missed first base and as she turned to go back and tag it, Tucholsky fell to the ground, with what turned out to be a torn ligament. Tucholsky managed to crawl back to first base, but it was clear she was not going to make it further. The rules state that a pinch runner can be called in, but when that happens the play is considered ended, which means that her hit would only count as a two-run, and not a three-run. Tucholsky had to make it through the remaining bases and then across home without assistance from her team. (Any assistance from her teammates would be considered an out.)
So, two players from Central Washington, Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, picked Tucholsky up and carried her around the bases, dipping her down so she could properly touch each one, and across home. They did this despite the fact that this clearly allowed the opposing team to score in a game that was going to help decide who made it to the playoffs.
I don't want to take too much away from the wonder of this story, although I will share a link to an article that ponders the likelihood of seeing something equivalent in men's sports. In the end, it is just a great story about people who didn't want to win on a technicality. People who didn't want to watch a fellow player lose out on a great moment. Tucholsky had already hit the ball over the fence. Touching the bases was almost a technicality, though clearly a requirement. And although Holtman and Wallace did not know at the time that their team would lose (although not by a single run) or that Tucholsky was a senior and this was her first homer, they just wanted to see her complete it. And really, isn't that why you play? Because you love the game so much that you want to see people do well at it? I hope so. As Western Oregon coach Pam Knox said, "It kept everything in perspective and the fact that we're never bigger than the game."
Holtman said. "Because granted I thought of it, but everyone else would have done it...And it's kind of a nice way to go out, because it shows what our program is about and the kind of people we have here."

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