Raise the level of the game for everyone
We used to be taught how to be gracious winners and gracious losers – how to show respect for our opponents, the officials and the fans. Sportscaster and former football great Frank Gifford said that he had never known a great competitor who was a good loser.
“You can be a gracious loser,” he said on the Monday Night Football telecast, “but great competitors are not good losers.”
Winning gracefully is just as important as losing gracefully.
In a social setting, nobody wants to listen to somebody brag about his or her great accomplishments all evening. Likewise, on the playing field, athletes should let their achievements speak for themselves.
Athletes used to just play the game and let the fans enjoy the results. Today, their athletic accomplishments are often overshadowed by their celebrations and dances.
A receiver is expected to catch balls for touchdowns. That’s his job. You don’t see doctors jumping all around and dancing every time they diagnose the flu and give you a shot for it. That’s their job, and they are expected to do it.
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Jerry Rice seems to understand this. He doesn’t do any fancy little dances when he scores.
He remembers how scared he was when he came into the National Football League and how many people encouraged him and helped him He talks about it openly.
He says his success is a group effort – a combination of support from parents, coaches, fans and players, his own hard work and his great, natural talent.
For him to dance and show off would be a slap in the face to everybody who blocked for him, for the quarterback who threw him the ball, for all of the people who supported him through the years. He shows respect for all of those other people.
It is okay – important, even – to let people know about your accomplishments. Fans love to see you succeed, and they like it even more when you are happy with your victory.
Genuine excitement over a job done exceptionally well is fun because the fans can enjoy it with you.
But it is disrespectful to everyone who helped out to everyone else who tried hard and gave their very best to show off, brag and act as if you are somehow better than they are.
In fact, without strong opponents to challenge you, you could never demonstrate how good you are in the first place.
Jack Nicklaus understands that winning through your own efforts is better than thriving on your opponents’ mistakes. He demonstrated this at the biannual Ryder Cup competition between British and American golfers.