Saturday, January 31, 2009

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

I am an athlete, have been almost my entire life. Soccer is a passion of mine, and while others can boast that their team may have won the state championship or other high honors, I can proudly say that while I was a captain, the entire athletic conference for my high school division, referees included in the vote, selected our team as the Robert Tingly Memorial Good Sportsmanship Award winners. What does this mean, and what does this have to do with SpiritFire you may ask.

Well, to earn that award, they looked at every member of every team - which team was the most kind, most passionite about their skills on the field, and how they treated those they were competing against as well as those who officiated the game. Our team treated everyone we played against, and each other, with the highest level of respect. Accidents happened, and in the spirit of competitiveness, people were knocked over or hurt. Our team members were the first ones to apologize and lend that other person a hand in getting up, or if they needed to be carried off the field, we helped them to their bench. NOT, every team was like this, in fact, there were some pretty aweful people out there. The kind that purposely tried to injure a member of another team, or took advantage of a bad call. We held ourselves, and each other, to a higher standard, not just as athletes, but as people respecting other people.

Society puts such an emphasis on competition, for sports, for jobs, for posessions, etc. How often do you see someone behaving in a manner that screams, "it's all about me!" and shake your head at them in disbelief? More often than not I find myself smiling in the face of the person that could have held the door for me, but instead walked through it and let it close behind them. When I get through the door and they are still close enough I remind them that I was right behind them and make them think about someone besides themselves for a minute. (
I'm respectful, but I'm no wallflower either.) I might even throw in a line about, "remember that poem, All I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarden?"

So in the spirit of compassion and ethical treatment for others, especially in our community, it was with great pleasure that I saw this article today, and had to share it:

Sprinter gives Olympic medal to opponent

NEW YORK (AP) - Shawn Crawford confirmed that he gave his Olympic silver medal to Churandy Martina, the sprinter who finished second in the 200 meters but was later disqualified for running out of his lane. "I'm like, if a guy is 10 meters in front of me, I don't care if he stayed in the middle of his lane," Crawford told The Associated Press on Friday after finishing third in the 60 at the Millrose Games. "He was going to beat me anyway. He didn't impede in anybody's race." Crawford, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, originally came in fourth in Beijing.

Teammate Wallace Spearmon was third but was disqualified for running out of his lane. American officials studied video of the race and then filed a protest against Martina for the same error. Martina and his Netherland Antilles team have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, arguing that the protest was filed too late under rules set by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Martina finished in 19.82 seconds behind world record-setter Usain Bolt. Crawford's time was 19.96.

"It wasn't about doing the right thing. It's just me as an athlete - I feel like we all compete and train for four years to get to the Olympic Games," Crawford said. "We got there, he was told he finished second after all that, he took a victory lap. I can understand his humiliation and embarrassment and all that.

"Me being an athlete, I know how he feels, so I feel like it was to me to give it up to him."

Crawford left the medal for Martina at a hotel during a meet shortly after the Olympics. The two have since spoken about it.

"He was very surprised, thankful about it," Crawford said. "He thought it was very big of me to step up like that."

One of the highest honors in sports is to be the winner of an Olympic medal. It is not just for the fact that your country beat another country in competition, but more for the fact that the athlete accomplished this achievement in a nerve-wracking environment, with all the world watching, and did it proudly for the place he or she calls home. The unselfishness of this particular athlete reaffirmed my belief that there are greater things in life than winning an award that will collect dust on a shelf, or be forgotten about years later.

It reminded me of that time my team won the Good Sportsmanship award. It reminded me that there are people in this world that DO care about others, that WILL lend them a hand in time of need, that WON'T let a door slam on someone behind them, and will ALWAYS care about the world around them, and the people they share it with. They will do the right thing because their heart tells them it's right, and for no greater honor than feeling good about what they did for someone else. THAT's what I'm talking about!

Love and Light,

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