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The Love Of The Game

In all the years of competitive sports whether as an athlete or coach defined the character of what I was and what I was to become. Reaching that pinnacle of ability whether it was on the track or baseball field, the basketball court, or the pool those ever so fleeting moments in the sun honed my persona to a level I thought I’d never become. Even after an athletic career I somehow knew the next obvious step.

In athletics especially in an era unlike today when I was just starting out baseball was the game everyone played. It didn’t matter if it was rain or shine it seems we were always outside. A quick learner I became not only from my father but those little league coaches that were so instrumental in teaching not only the fundamentals of the game but how to behave with dignity and grace especially when we eared or just fell flat on our face.

Life lessons that I learned from an athletic career has carried me well all through the years. When I look around today many times I am appalled from what I see. There is too much emphasis put on winning at all costs. Professional sports is partly to blame. It really is now a far cry from yesterday. Most of the blame though comes from the media where TV revenue has far exceeded everyone’s expectations When so much money is now involved has actually corrupted the integrity of the game. This corruption has now been passed down to our youth that come to play. Too many are caught up idolizing and immortalizing many professional players whose own disposition cares little for the game except for the money and fame.

Now as I look back to my younger playing days not a harsh word or a temper flared. The love of the sport, giving it our all, just playing the game no matter if we won or lost all things were the same. As I travel around today I have noticed too many playing fields sit empty and bare. With no one around where bases were loaded with nobody out the playing fields have now gone silent. Those standing in the stands cheering for all are all just distant memories now.

Those fields of dreams of yesteryear have been replaced by a new breed. Lost is the joy of playing for the love of the game, money and winning are now to blame. There has been a sharp decline of personal and professional behavior of athletes today. A lot different than when I played. The professionalism and comradely we had has now given way to a self absorption where too many are consumed with monetary compensation without the slightest regard for teammates, competitors and the fans. Lost is the sense of fellowship that we all had back in the day.

As for those playing fields that sit empty today many can say the cultural shift has not come a long way. The health of a nation where we were once strong and proud has morphed into self serving crowd. Too many are caught in unhealthy choices today. The rate of obesity continues to expand. Where once the youth were so physically mobile it wasn’t a surprise that the health of our nation was on the rise. But those days are gone and many forget what it was like to just play for the love of the game.

What has replaced playing for the “love of the game” to now where too many athletes whether professional or collegiate have adopted a self serving attitude where they agree to play just because of the money or scholarships being offered. When this happens as so often today these athletes now expect the adoration, the attention and the publicity to be bestowed upon them and not because of their ability, their respect for other players, coaches and fans. It is because of the amount of money that has now come into play. If they failed to exhibit the professionalism that really should be displayed when individuals achieve that level of athletics it matters not.

Many of my generation can remember their first completion. The excitement, the exhilaration and the respect we had for ourselves our coaches and other competitors made us all realize that just being able to compete was an unbelievable experience. Whether we won or lost wasn’t the issue. Our coaches realized that winning wasn’t that important. But, just being able to strive to do your best is what competition should be all about. Sure everyone likes to win, but even if you lost and many times I did as long as you gave it your all you are actually a winner in every sense.

It has come to pass that too many high school and collegiate athletes are lured by the prospect of lucrative professional sports contracts. Too many have already succumbed to the temptation to forgo a collegiate career or stop short of graduation and opt for that professional contract only to realize that once their career is over or an injury prevents them from competing they are left with very little qualifications to embark upon a career outside of sports. Most of these individuals are not mentally, emotionally and educationally able to comprehend the scope of the responsibilities that are involved in professional sports contracts.

What has occurred today in professional sports is that they have really encouraged a type of behavior that is most unprofessional by the athletes themselves. We’re not saying all professional sports athletes have fallen into this type of behavior but the media surely has continued to exploit some individuals to where the general public actually further encourages student and professional athletes toward behavior that is most unprofessional.

“For the love of the game” or sport! A time so distant. The days when players and athletes actually played and competed because of the enjoyment of the sport itself and not because of how much money they are paid. It is in professional sports thought that winning is the objective. The key is to recruit the caliber of players that when they actually play and compete to the best ability they can they will produce the winning effect that is important in today’s professional sports.

Aspiring young athletes today have to be taught restraint and to resist the temptation of forgoing and education in the pursuit of lucrative sports contracts that seem like a sure bet when actually it is a short sighted and misguided attempt to interrupt an individual’s life process. What really matters is students and student athletes participation in sports are held accountable for their behavior on and off the playing field. They are responsible to show a level of personal esteem and portray courtesy, respect, and a genuine fellowship toward everyone. This is what we were taught when we were young. Sad to say this is what’s lacking today by too many accounts.

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