As Sam Sees It<br>

A few weeks ago, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Payton Manning had a golden opportunity to tie a record for the number of touchdown passes completed in a NFL season. He did finally set it the record at 49 two games ago against San Diego.

The Colts were on the Baltimore three-yard line with a safe lead and time for at least two and possibly three more plays. The likelihood of Manning being able to throw another touchdown pass and tie the record were better than average. Instead, he played the game like a gentleman and took a knee twice to run out the clock.

This was an outstanding show of sportsmanship in a year that has seen far too few such acts. The NFL is more frequently tarnished by ludicrous celebrations and taunting, often over feats that have little or no effect on the outcome of the game.

College teams often run up the score on badly beaten opponents, but part of the blame for that should go to the ill conceived BCS (Bowl Championship System) which determines which teams get the better bowl assignments and who plays for the National Championship. A formula that rewards margin of victory doesn’t encourage good sportsmanship. This can be cured and should be by the creation of a real playoff system that would produce a legitimate and undisputed champion.

The fight in Detroit has embarrassed professional basketball, the off-court actions of Kobe Bryant and others and the trash talk that has become too much a part of the game. It is past time to do as I heard one NBA star’s mother tell him when he was in high school and started replying to trash talk from an opponent. “Shut up and play basketball,” she told him. To his credit and hers, he did and still does.

Winning is a lot more fun than losing, but it is not all important. Coaches, players and fans need to learn to do so with class. Shaking the hands of a team that has defeated you and congratulating them on their accomplishment isn’t always easy, but it should be done. Every time you are unfortunate enough not to be a winner, you should at least be a good loser. It doesn’t hurt though to admonish yourself not to make a habit of it.

It should be easier to be a gracious winner, but we seem to be in an era where gloating is acceptable behavior in some circles. It is hard not to notice that those who are poor winners are the ones who will do almost anything to win.

Good sportsmanship is important. Those who disrespect others on the field, diamond or court are likely to do the same in any of life’s endeavors.

Have a Happy New Year’s and may you all prosper and be good sports about it

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