Thursday, May 10, 2007

Untold tales of sportsmanship

Midway through San Luis Obispo High's tennis match with visiting Burroughs-Burbank in the first round of CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs Thursday, I had a chat with Burroughs coach Roy Bernhardt.

His team hadn't been in the playoffs since 1993, and as a warmup question, I asked him what he thought of the Tigers — the cream of the team crop here in our area.

The question wasn't hard-hitting enough to beat an egg, I know, but I was feeling him out. San Luis Obispo, which won 12-6, was dominating, and hey, you are reading a blog about it.

The first thing he complimented the Tigers on was their conduct. They all were true sportsmen, he said. It was relevant considering that certain nameless players were flinging rackets and water bottles in losing frustration.

Here's my comment. I wish I'd said it to him. Winning a game or match going away isn't a true test of sportsmanship.

I've gotta say it's pretty easy to deal with winning, especially when it's by a lot. Winning with class does take some effort, but your level of sportsmanship truly shows when you have to deal with adversity — a blown call, some bad luck or a hostile crowd.

Paso Robles softball pitcher Michelle Moses gave up the first ever home run at San Luis Obispo's softball diamond, and it cost the Bearcats the game and the chance to be all alone in first place in the PAC 7 a couple weeks ago.

Choking back some emotion, she actually did an interview with me after the game and thanked me for coming. A lesser sportsman might have told me to buzz off.

After being eliminated from playoff contention in a blowout loss to Atascadero this week, Arroyo Grande baseball catcher Lucas Kephart saw me walking by and flashed me a big smile.

I'd seen it before. It was the same one I got after two games where I watched him homer earlier in the season. It's the same one I'll see next time, too, whether he pops up or strikes out.

At the PAC 7 track finals last week, Eagles sprinter Stephanie Micheli thought she finally had rival Tonie Williams of San Luis Obispo in the 200-meter dash. But Micheli lost by .01 seconds, lost her balance through the finish line and lost sizeable chunks of cheek and shoulder skin on the track.

Not only did she come back for her next race a few minutes later, but she talked to me, gave kudos to Williams and vowed to beat her with a renewed determination.

These kids weren't happy with losing. Nobody really is. But they had untold stories where they handled it with grace.

Tigers tennis handled winning just fine. Will they do the same while losing? Only a runaway section title would mean they wouldn't get the chance.

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