I guess I first heard the term sportsmanship when I played football in grade school for the St. Joseph Bluejays.
We played in a Catholic parochial league with six other teams. Our school was one of the smallest but we were able to play with most of the bigger schools.
As eighth graders, we were pretty good and found ourselves playing St. Ann’s for the championship. It was to be played on the high school field under the lights. Our team was very nervous but when the final gun went off, the Bluejays were champs by one point, 14-13. To top it off, I scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter.
My dad never went to my games. He worked long hours, including Saturdays, to feed our family of six, and that was when we played most of our games. Little did I know he attended that championship game. Our fullback, and my best friend Grubby, told me after the game that he thought he saw my dad at the game. I told him he was wrong and that was that.
When I got home, Dad ask me about the game and I told him we won and beat those rich kids from St. Ann’s. Without looking up from his newspaper, his next words I never forgot.
“Did you shake their hands and tell them they played a great game?” he said.
When I said no and laughed, he stood up and walked to the phone.
“You will call their quarterback now and congratulate him on his effort. I watched him play and he tried as hard as you did. That is called good sportsmanship and you better never forget it. You failed to do that after the game. I was there and was not happy with your team’s action after the game.”
I did make that call and their quarterback and I became good friends in high school.
I never forgot my dad’s words and the rest of my playing days and all of my coaching years, those words remained with me. I have been on both ends of winning and losing and I cannot recall any game I was a part of where I gave less than 100 percent effort.
Yes, winning is always the final goal, but some very good teams sometimes lose. St. Ann’s played a terrific game but we outscored them by a single point. They deserved a pat on the back.
Today, teams lineup after the game and shake hands. That may be the best rule ever adopted.
In a recent edition of the Wilmington News Journal, there was a photograph of an Edgewood High School cross country runner along with a Wilmington High School runner assisting another WHS runner who had been hurt during the race. All were disqualified for that act. In my mind the Edgewood runner should have received an award. That is true sportsmanship in action.
Like a lot of you, I watched the Wilmington Hurricane football game against the Clinton-Massie Falcons. It was a great game. Both teams played their hearts out and there really was no loser in my mind.
They know each other and some are friends. I also saw great sportsmanship on both teams. I only hope that this type of clean county rivalry can continue.
I hope my dad was watching. He would have approved.
Tony Lamke is a former coach. He has researched the history of Clinton County sports and writes a periodic column for the News Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]