Sharp: Browns-Steelers fight shines light on sportsmanship problem in sports
Matt Sharp is a senior journalism major and is a reporter for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper.
Watching the Steelers and Browns scuffle at the end of their matchup Thursday night left me with just one question about the sports I love so dearly: Is sportsmanship dead? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.
A fight is nothing new in sports; look at hockey. Most of those players wear the gaps in their teeth from years of ice boxing as a badge of pride. The problem is sportsmanship appears to be taking a back seat to the bright lights and the larger-than-life characters we have created in sports.
This problem shows at all levels, whether it is a fight on a prime-time NFL game where a player gets hit with his own helmet or parents belligerently berating referees at a high school football game. The issue is nobody thinks about being a good example for those watching. Kids idolize the players they see fighting, taunting and talking trash to each other on fields and courts.
It has become popular and profitable to be as big of a personality as possible in sports. In many ways, athletes all try to channel their inner professional wrestler and play the biggest, most flamboyant role on the field or at the podium. To be outspoken is to attract attention, and that same attention typically attracts sponsorships, shoe deals and advertisements. In short, the more you run your mouth, the more money you make.
I know I may sound like the voice of a society gone soft, but look back at other examples from the past: the fight between the Pike and Ben Davis girls' basketball teams or the Malice at the Palace between the Pacers and the Pistons. Is that really what a person should want to be remembered for?
There is a reason the IHSAA recommends players shake hands at the end of each game. It is a show of goodwill and limits the likelihood of incidents like those mentioned above.
There are other things that can be done that are less glamorous but can leave a far better reputation behind. Think about acts like J.J. Watt raising money for hurricane victims in Houston or LeBron James opening the "I Promise" School in Cleveland. These are the types of things that move society forward, not swinging a helmet at someone’s head.
I know most of these examples deal with millionaires who can probably care less about what we think of them, but this applies to more than just the rich and famous. Think about these examples the next time you are about to scream at a referee at a high school basketball game or the next time you reach a red-faced, profanity-filled rage at the coach of your favorite team because they made a bad call. Other people are watching and learning that these kinds of actions are OK. Sportsmanship will never improve until we do.