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It’s a Hard Lesson, to Avoid Being a Poor Sport and Lose with Dignity

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

Just to set the stage, I grew up in the 60s and 70s on a long block filled with kids my age. Without computers or cell phones, one critical job as a kid meant that we had to create our own fun and games. One game we played was street kickball, played on the asphalt near the property line of our house. We only needed 4 or 5 players (boys and girls) and rarely had a situation where several kids were not game to play kickball. Kickball was almost egalitarian, as girls had a much better competitive advantage paying this game as opposed to football or basketball. What I enjoyed about kickball was the skills needed to be a good player -- you got to kick, field, run on offense and defense and if lucky, you were in control by rolling the rubber ball towards our makeshift home plate.

Besides the logistics of the game, the other thing I remember is the learned lesson of losing with class and dignity. I didn’t enjoy losing and often would use that negative emotional energy to complain about how the game was played. And this included excuses: I’d complain about how the ball was rolled to the kicker, asking that the ball be rolled instead of bounced (a trick that some players engaged in to make it a harder target to kick). I’d complain about a player forgetting to touch a base on the way to home base. Very close plays that went against my team was meant with arguing and a threat to quit the game. Needless to say, other neighborhood kids were not gracious about losing but at the age of 12 or 13, I took it to a whole new level.

It was quite common that some of my antics were caught by my older siblings and parents. They attempted to instill in me that I need to keep my mouth shut more often and just go with the flow. They'd say, "No one wants to compete against a complainer or “hot head” that just wants to win every game he plays." In my heart, I knew they were right but just knowing this didn’t always translate to effective sportsmanship in neighborhood pick-up games. My poor attitude on the street also applied to street basketball and the rough stuff on the gridiron.

On several occasions, my father threatened to ground me from any pickup games for a few weeks – even though that didn’t materialize, I got the message and gradually (and with a lot of mental effort) began to exhibit better sports behavior, especially after a loss. (Legend has it that the reason he didn't ground me was he didn't want that high energy level in the house at the time so he'd not enforce his threat.)

Maturity eventually taught me that winning isn’t everything, it’s about how well you do physically and mentally against your opponent. (I compete against myself now and aim for the best performance based on the current situation.) During physical games, if my best friend couldn't handle the tall popup, your focus should be doing your best and being a supportive teammate. If I were in an identical situation, you'd want the same approach. Anyway, over the years I've focused on the social aspect as well as friendly competition. Of course, I wanted to win but sometimes you can compete and lose but still feel it was an enjoyable game and appreciate the valuable time you spent with your competitors.

Let's now shift to politics, now that the 2020 election is over, it appears that almost half the country believes that Trump won the election but was mischievously stolen from him by democrats at various levels. Many Republicans love Trump and believe something nefarious occurred in this election and they'll never accept Joe Biden as President. This mentality includes my father and at least half of my 'Boomer 6 siblings.

Staying at the federal level, recently, the US Attorney General, Bill Barr said, “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Mind you, William Barr has been somewhat of a hero in the right-wing media universe so his comment is noteworthy. Several significant Republican Senators have publically said that Biden was properly elected President. That doesn’t stop at least those family members to continually complain about how the election was stolen -- it was a coordinated effort by the Democrats to target certain toss-up states to swing the election towards their candidate. Much of their proof they’ve read comes from far-right media companies. According to the Pew survey, they are more distrusted than trusted by people who are mostly liberal, consistently liberal; and are more trusted than distrusted by people who are mostly conservative, and consistently conservative.

Today is December 4th which is more than a month after our latest federal election. However, many of my siblings, are unhappy about the election results and have gone to texting the entire family voicing their displeasure, many links only contain video. Many of their claims are from far-right fringe groups filled with many conspiracy theories including threatened suits by Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and DJT in the hopes of overturning the election results. This brings me back to the valuable lesson that my family taught me about 50 years ago about good sportsmanship, especially if you lose. I was frequently told, forget the complaining, quit the sports legalese, and excuses, and learn to lose with dignity and grace. You’ll like yourself more and you'll be more likable by your friends and fellow competitors – besides, you’ll have much more self-respect when you behave in such a manner.

Unfortunately, half of my siblings and father appear to have forgotten that message many of them imprinted on me, instead, appear hurt and angry about the 2020 Presidential Election.

Who likes to lose, especially a close election? I get it, it's tough to handle and may take months for the sting to gradually subside. Again, I wonder if the hard sportsmanship lesson I learned in my youth helps insulate me from making that mistake again. I certainly hope so. Sadly, it appears that the principles they applied to me in my youth aren't something they care to execute here, perhaps anger obscures objectivity and the truth. (I'd consider opting out of the text group but then if I did, I'd not have this article to compose. Sometimes, art requires some sacrifices.) I see daily if not every other day of complaints about rigged ballot machines, switching of votes, late ballots being accepted. I'm not sure how they feel deep down in their soul, but it's really, really tough to let go of Trump, he made them feel good. I'm hopeful some of them come on board, not for my sake but for the sake of the country -- we have some much work to do and for the sake of all Americans, we need to become more united than the current political tenor.

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