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Even before the final out in the Tampa Bay Rays game against the New York Yankees last night, the phrases gamesmanship and sportsmanship were called out and questioned by many sitting in the stands. The two phrases seem to have a lot in common, but both have their own special definition and responsive nature, both which were called into play during that game. By now either Sports Talk Radio or even the guys at the coffee machine at your office have all spouted their opinions and explanations as to the effect of that one play had on the course and direction of the game. But I also think it is as simple as wither you wear a Rays or Yankees cap.
The game day analogy of gamesmanship and sportsmanship is a lot more diverse than just the number of letters, or the apparent definition to the common man. Both phrases are taught to us at an early age during our developing stages as young impressionable players. We either develop these phrases into our playing subconscious, or we just throw it back into reality as just a set of letters arranged in a certain pattern. The way you embrace, or even practice these two aspects of sports conduct can define the type of player character you give off on the field or the reputation you will develop among your sporting colleagues.
Each individual player and team can tweak, rearrange or even dismantle these phrases to fit their own personal goals to achieve greatness. No matter if it is considered “good” sportsmanship, or even “bad” gamesmanship, both these phrases will forever be dissected and reexamined when game day conduct comes into question either for you team or against them. But maybe we need to first examine what these phrases mean to each of us before condemning a player or team to purgatory or shouting for reforms to reverse a obvious mistake in judgment to the high Heavens.
Gamesmanship can be simply defined as the use of dubious (although not illegal) methods to bring about a positive result for your own squad to win or gain advantage in a game. It can be further illustrated that this phrase can refer to pushing the rules of the game to their current limits or limitations to achieve a desired end without being caught or manipulating the system. Some say this phrase actually pushes the boundaries of honestly and integrity to their limits as teams and individuals wanting to use this form of deception only have a desire to win (at any cost) instead of playing for the sake of sport.
Some Rays fans can thrust the “poor gamesmanship” label immediately upon Jeter for his action last night of feigning injury to delay the game and achieve a distinctive advantage because of a mistake presented by the Home Plate Umpire’s limited resources to prove deception at the time last night. A skilled gamesman can use the limitations of the game to his advantage within the boundaries of the game, but those beyond the foul lines and playing field have a more defined view of the action via television replays and close camera angles.
This type of behavior and game day action has been going on since the advent of sports, not just last night. A notorious character in this art of deception is Chicago White Sox catcher A J Pierzenski, who has displayed his own version of the aspects of gamesmanship and sportsmanship to the World. And with his actions last night, Jeter will either stand along side Pierzenski in the minds of baseball fans as a skilled Gamesman, or as lacking in certain sportsmanship qualities. But again, it might be another example of what hat you wear upon your noggin too.
Sportsmanship can sometimes be explained as simple as showing a love for the game in its simplicity while performing with fairness, ethics, respect and a bond of fellowship with one’s competitors. Sometimes the phrase can be defined as simple as being a “good sport” that can be visually displayed as being a “good winner” as well as a “good loser”. Some people thrust their own aspect of “off-the-field” morality into their game day experience without calling into question the always present aspect of skimming the top layer of good and evil within the rules and regulations of the game.
I can see clearly both edges of the coin and can see why both sides are calling to arms their own individual show of force that their side is right in this issue. But the one immediate constant of these two phrases is commonly that each of us makes our own instant and reviewable decision in a nanosecond to go with our own flow of the rules in our own version of gamesmanship or sportsmanship. For that reasoning, you are either in the assembled group of people believing that Jeter violated an aspect of sportsmanship by not telling Home Plate Umpire Lance Barksdale the ball hit the nub of his bat.
But then instantly others will condemn him to purgatory for showing gamesmanship by taking the base after implying injury and playing to the event as if the ball did grace his elbow region. The Ying and the Yang of the situation are quite defined, but was it Jeter’s intent to defraud and take a distinctive advantage because of the visual and replay limitations of refuting the call to provide a better conclusion, or was he just adhering to the Umpire’s call and following the flow of the game.
The result of Jeter’s actions can either be viewed as a transgression or playing to the obvious limitations of what is reviewable currently in each night’s Major League Baseball game. Considering it happened in a high profile contest with grave playoff and post season implications, the game’s action have been magnified and dissected beyond its simple clarity. If this had been a low profile game, or even one where the result would effect nothing more than pride and maybe a MLB Draft spot, it might have gone basically unnoticed.
Jeter has been one of the constant classy characters within the Yankees organization for a long, long time. His reputation might take a bit of a hit after this episode from some, but does it diminish his overall respectability and admiration by millions, even outside of the New York and Tampa Bay metropolitan regions?
If you asked me before this incident the one guy on the Yankees roster I felt played the game with class and honesty, my immediate answer would be Jeter. His reputation’s armor might have been a bit tarnished by this event, but then again, it just might have added another chapter to the Yankee mystic and Jeter’s allure within the game. I guess the best way to end this post is with a quote by the Yankee Captain:
“If you’re going to play at all, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing Jeopardy, I hate to lose“.
So do you think that quote displays more gamesmanship or sportsmanship? See, told you it was not as simple as black and white. But then, some say Potato, some say Potatoe.
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