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Lessons From Baseball For Hockey

Something historic happened yesterday in sports. While it wasn’t in our sport we here at Chicks Who Give A Puck still recognize excellence in other sports, and more importantly in sportsmanship.

In the ninth inning with two outs Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga faced the possibility of pitching a ‘perfect’ game. No hits, no walks, nothing but three up three down. A total of 27 consecutive outs. Jason Donald then hit the ball having first baseman Miguel Cabrera field it as Galarraga ran to first. The play was an obvious ‘out’, and yet umpire Jim Joyce called him ‘safe’. Outrage ensued everywhere and from everyone except the one person you’d expect to see it from; Galarraga smiled and went on.

In a day and age where hateful cheers, messages, tweets, Facebook statuses are flooding the internet, this story reminds us why we watch sports, why we spend hundreds or thousands of dollars every year to support our teams. It’s why we push our kids to play, why we never forget where we were when something historic happened, why we recall certain games and smile. What has gotten lost in all the recent fan-dom is the actual sport and more importantly sportsmanship.

Why is it that we love sports? The camaraderie, the action, the teamwork, the effort, the memories. All of these are reasons to love the game, whether it be shooting a puck, swinging a bat, throwing the pig skin around or dribbling. It’s not the money or the fame that drew the players in and it’s not the championships or even the ‘perfect’ games or shutouts or sweeps that keep the fans coming back season after season.

As fans we’ve lost sight as to what makes us love the game. My team got to the playoffs this year and they didn’t last year. But a playoffs appearance doesn’t make me a fan. My team has won two Stanley Cups, but it’s not the Cups that keep me coming back. It’s the buzz in the air before the game has started when the lights are low and the crowd is cheering. It’s the hair sticking up on the back of my neck when I hear the National Anthems. It’s the sound of the first blade hitting the ice, the ding of hitting the post, the collective sigh of relief from fellow fans, the goal horn, the goal song, the high fives with the random stranger next to you.

When did it all get so negative and nasty? Look up any youtube video of hockey. Chances are there are a dozen negative titles, using overly aggressive titles, wishing harm on players, etc. Somewhere along the line fans forgot about the sport and the sportsmanship. Somewhere along the line ‘Kill Him’ became an acceptable thing to say. Somehow we forgot that these players are husbands, fathers, sons, brothers. That they are human with real fears, real concussions, real broken bones, and real career ending injuries. Incredibly, some of us have forgotten how to behave properly.

We’re watching fellow fans throw trash on the ice, call players names online, attack each other, spew hateful words about rival teams, riot in their cities and there are some who don’t blink an eye. They excuse the behavior because they were ’emotional’ or the ‘refs were being one-sided’ or they were ‘celebrating’. The worst part is, these are usually grown adults behaving in such unbecoming behavior that it can tarnish the name of hockey fans everywhere or at the very least the fans of a particular club.

I always hear fans and commentators discussing how they love in our sport that no matter the damage that has been done on the ice, the players shake hands, smile at each other, even hug each other at the end of a game or a series. Why is it as fans we admire that behavior yet not participate in the same sportsmanlike behavior?

I hope every sports fan learns something from Jim Joyce’s mistake. Life isn’t fair, refs/umps make mistakes, but those calls, those unfair things do not define us.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” – Lou Holtz

Read the wonderful article Joe Posnanski wrote about the lessons learned here. Forewarning, it may strike something inside of you as this is America’s Pasttime.

Categories: NHL
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