Lost in Tiger’s Masters Victory

Understandably, all of the post tourney press is about Tiger’s comeback from professional golf oblivion. Best comeback in the history of sports many argue.

But just like a year ago, when the University of Virginia basketball team became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in the NCAA tournament, many no doubt missed Francesco Molinari’s master class in gracious losing.

A year ago, after the unlikeliest of defeats, Tony Bennett:

And Sunday afternoon in Augusta, Georgia, Francesco Molinari, taking a page from Bennett’s book:

“I think I made some new fans today with those two double bogeys.” Best runner up interview and line ever. If only all of us were half as centered. As with Bennett, look for Molinari in green sometime soon.

Postscript: How does one explain how Molinari could so surgically make his way around Augusta for 65 holes, then suddenly, as they sometimes say, throw up all over himself? My theory is it had nothing to do with bad swings or Tiger’s death stare, it’s that he could only hold off the weight of the spectators (spare me the “patron” bullshit) for so long. He wasn’t just battling Tiger and numerous other Americans, he was fighting the legion of Tiger fans. How dare anyone, let alone a foreign player, spoil the ending! An empty course and the two stroke cushion he began with is enough to hold Tiger off. Tiger, in other words, owes his victory to the multitudes.

In Praise of Meghan Vogel

All the news isn’t bad. And maybe today’s youth aren’t a lost cause after all.

Sick and tired of big time college and professional sports? Knuckleheads running afoul of the law, the commercialism, the cheating, the excesses of competition. Then take a few minutes and read about how Ohio high school trackster Meghan Vogel (on the right below) recently stopped to help a fallen competitor across the finish line near the very end of the 3,200 meter final.

Maybe it’s an especially touching story because we mistakenly think competition is an elixir for all that ails us. Vogel’s decision highlights the power of cooperation. Her compassion and humble response to her fifteen minutes of fame inspire me. And the surprising decision by the meet officials not to apply the letter of the law and disqualify the two student-athletes warrants praise.

[But of course, all the news isn’t good on the adolescent front.]

Vogel, “I just did what I knew was right.” Credit: AP Photo/The Daily Call, Mike Ullery

Tell the Truth. . . Most of the Time

This thirty second sportsmanship commercial produced by the Foundation for a Better Life got me thinking about how in sports an “ends justify the means” mentality often dominates. Why is that?

We’re used to seeing wide receivers trap balls and pop up as if they caught them before they hit the ground. Similarly, we’re using to seeing outfielders pop up after trapping line drives as if they were legit catches. And as the commercial highlights, in bball players routinely deny having tipped a ball.

One definition of morality is doing the right thing when no one’s looking, in some sports though, we seemingly accept whatever it takes to win.

Can’t athletes be both passionate about winning and ethical?

I take a car crash approach to YouTube comments, try not to look, but in the case of this commercial, I couldn’t help myself. One commenter made an interesting point by saying it’s important to defer to the third, impartial party to maintain control and that the refs wouldn’t have liked having their call questioned. Is that a legit explanation for the status quo or is it a weak rationalization for lying? Most people ripped the player for admitting to touching the ball before it went out of bounds.

Again, why do we expect people to tell the truth when completing their taxes, but take an “anything goes” approach to winning? If you’re over thirty five you might remember the fifth down game. Gotta love Bill McCartney‘s (of Promise Keepers fame) stirring response.

Maybe it’s just the major sports. Golf is well known for requiring honesty and as Rosie Ruiz found out, generally you have to run the whole 26.2 miles of a marathon.

What am I going to do all about this? The next time I race my daughter in the 500 free, I’m going to get my counter to flip from 13 to 17 and hope no one notices. If they do, I’m sure everyone will cut me some slack.