The Game My Father Taught Me
This past Sunday I drove to Bluefield, WVA. The good folks at the Blue Ridge Junior Golf Tour invited me up there to speak to all their junior players and their parents about rules and sportsmanship.
But why in tarnation would they invite “me”?
Well, in “another life”, back in the mid to late ‘70s, I was good at golf. I mean really pretty good. I won five separate individual Tennessee state championships between the ages of 16-21. I also made High School All-American. Oh, and I received a full golf/athletic scholarship to ETSU (and later transferred to play at Carson-Newman).
Okay, enough about “winning” things. All that I just mentioned and a couple or three dollars will buy you a Mountain Dew most places.
When I came home from playing in a match or a tournament, my father often wouldn’t even ask me my what my score was. Instead, he’d ask me something like, “Were you nice to the fellas you played with today, Benny?”
As a teenager, I didn’t totally get “it” - what all he was trying to teach me - pure and utter sportsmanship; the “ultimate” highest goal of all games ever played anywhere at any time. I was more interested in my score - and beating the tar out of everyone.
But, eventually, I got “it”. And later on, thirty-some years later on, I wrote a book about it. The Game My Father Taught Me, it was entitled. In conjunction with the Tennessee Golf Association, we saw that every single junior golfer who played in a TGA event across the entire state got a copy during the summer of 2007. I wish I still had some copies to give to friends, but we sold out.
My son took up the greatest of games, too. As to whether I was as successful as was my father in teaching my son the “more nobler” meaning behind the game, I am not sure. But I fancy that anyone who knows my son will vouch that his integrity and character are impeccable; that he exhibits nothing but great sportsmanship and a true sense of pure honor within the business world in which he now resides. And I think - largely - because he learned early how to play the greatest of games with sportsmanship as the ultimate prize, even above winning on the scorecard.
Imagine an NBA player getting whistled for a foul by a referee. Now imagine that player walking up to the ref, shaking his hand, and saying, “Thank you, sir. I broke a rule, so I deserved that.”
Imagine an NFL player getting flagged for a penalty by a referee. Now imagine that player walking up to the ref, shaking his hand, and saying, “Thank you sir. I broke a rule, so I deserved that.”
Imagine the same happening in Major League Baseball. Or Olympic Underwater Basket Weaving. Or virtually any other game or athletic event you care to name.
Bet you’ve never actually seen it happen. I’d bet all the Mountain Dew in Bristol.
Actually, what you and I are far more likely to see happen in most any sport at the professional level is just the opposite; a player vehemently arguing in the face of a ref or an umpire.
Now also imagine the following.