Good sportsmanship isn’t something that should just be taught during little league games. It should start there and continue all the way through high school and college sports, and if you are so lucky to work with major/minor league players, it should also be refreshed there often.
Speaking for reporters and photographers, sometimes we enter into the vortex of the unknown. What I mean by that is we don’t always know the back and forth that could have happened when the teams crossed paths in previous games, or even the animosity that can come with the parents as they scowl at the other team and the refs for “bad calls”. I encountered several disgruntled coaches, teammates, fans and parents at plenty of games this past year. The comments weren’t usually directed at anyone in particular (unless it was the referee or umpire), but just angry words shouted and a lot of unsettling looks and hand motions.
Recently a Utah referee was fatally injured after he was a victim of bad sportsmanship during a high school soccer game. The referee, Ricardo Portillo, made a call on a goalie and threw out a yellow warning flag for pushing. The goalie didn’t agree with the call and his temper flared up as he punched him directly in the face. Portillo turned dizzy and started to vomit blood. He ended up laying in the fetal position while waiting for the ambulance to arrive; this is when the goalie ran away from the scene. Portillo ended up spending his last week on Earth in a coma with his daughters by his side. This was all something that should have been prevented. Good sportsmanship is key to having a successful team and if teammates let their anger get the best of them then they take down the whole team.
Portillo had been attacked in two other incidents and ended up with broken ribs and a broken leg previously. It’s a shame that children and adults cannot keep their anger under control and it takes someone’s life to bring light onto a very dangerous situation. It’s important to remember that a trophy, or another “win” in the score column cannot bring back your dignity and grace after someone has lashed out due to anger…and it certainly cannot bring back a life. A tantrum ends up being something that is hard to forget and in some cases, it can make the news.
Remember that no one is perfect. Sometimes your team is going to lose, and sometimes there are going to be calls that you don’t agree with, but it will not be the end of the world. Keep calm and carry on.
By Kristen Harris