There's a story from the world of women's softball traveling the internet. Perhaps you've read it. A senior player from Western Oregon hit what was later discovered to be her first home run in high school or college, but as she rounded first base, she wrenched her knee. Maybe permanent ligament damage. She fell to the ground, unable to get anywhere but crawl back to 1st base. Obviously her teammates can't help her around the bases. The only legal option for her team was to substitute a pinch runner, count it as a single, and only the two baserunners who had scored would count their runs.
Then a player from the other team stepped in. Central Washington's 1st baseman Mallory Holtman asked the umpire if her team could carry Sara Tucholsky around the bases. He said that there was no rule preventing it, so Mallory and CW's shortstop Liz Wallace carried Tucholsky around the bases, gently letting her tag each one as they passed. Western Oregon went on to win the game. Holtman and Wallace are being hailed as heroes.
By most, anyway.
It's interesting, the first thing I thought of when I read the article was that a team of guys probably would never do that. And USA Today's coverage of the story confirms that many guys have said just that. While most of the conversation is supportive of the women who did this, a few of the responses have challenged their support for the team, calling the act "selfish." Their response has been that they believe many guys would have the character to step up and do the right thing.
So how do you know what the right thing is? Sports can do a lot to teach you about right things. But I for one agree with these young ladies decision and with those who support them--if competition has gotten so out of hand that winning is the only thing important, then character is not being built, it is being compromised.
I'm a Spurs fan. I love watching them play. I stayed up for the entire game on Tuesday night, even though I was staying with friends in Dallas and they had gone to bed. We all had to be up for work early Wednesday morning. But I'm a Spurs fan. I couldn't sleep for a couple more hours after the game because of the adrenaline coursing through my veins after the finish. I'm known to yell at the TV, shout and wake up the kids, you name it. I am a fan.
But in each of the games with Phoenix, there were moments I was pulling for the Suns. Or at least for one of their players. The Diesel, Shaquille O'Neil, is notorious for being a bad free throw shooter. So at various points in each game, the Spurs would put in a player that was less likely to get into foul trouble in other ways to foul Shaq away from the ball just to put him on the line. There are two responses to this: it's part of the rules so take every advantage you can; after all he should make his free throws, he's a highly paid professional OR it's bad form, bad sportsmanship, so don't do it, even though the rules allow it.
I fall into the second response group. The last thing I want to teach anyone is that decisions should be made by conforming to the rules and taking advantage of the loopholes in them, regardless of what character would have to say about the issue. It's a big leap, but the Enron's of the world have learned this lesson well, and people have paid for their lack of character. So I was actually happy every time the Spurs fouled Shaq on purpose away from the ball and he made the free throws. I wanted him to make them. It's just bad form for me, regardless of the rules.
Sometimes character demands doing the right thing even when the rules would allow you to ignore the right thing.