Funny, I hadn't thought about it in years until I read this AP story this morning.
Here's the news story, in short: Last week in Texas, a private girl's school basketball team beat another private school's team 100-0. It was 50-0 at half-time and the winning team apparently decided to make a show out of it, throwing three-pointer after three-pointer, purposely driving up the score as high as they could. The other team, from a school that had only 20 girls in its high school and eight girls on its team, didn't have a chance. It was a resounding rout.
I don't know about you, but where I come from, they call that poor sportsmanship. I'm sure the motivation was no more malicious than in-the-moment euphoria, and they were immediately ashamed of themselves afterward. Nevertheless, the underdog team played doggedly through, ladies until the end. No evidence of rancor in any of them. Bless those girls. The other team's coach has publicly apologized, a gesure that wasn't necessary for the losing team.
They already knew they were the winners.
I know, because I remember the same kind of feeling. Flashback to a banquet hall in Charleston SC, in the spring of 1976:
Our pathetic basketball team hadn't won a single game all season, so the awards ceremony meant little more to our team than a chance to tuck in and enjoy the buffet. Everyone knew who the winning teams would be and accepted it without a thought. Our team had had fun playing the games throughout the season, and everyone had tried his hardest, but we knew we just didn't have enough talent. So our boys ate second and third helpings from the dessert table and watched as the star teams paraded up to take their trophies. It really didn't bother any of us, but we did feel a little sorry for our parish priest, Fr. Patat, the world's biggest sports fan. How could it not have pained him that there was only one boy on our team that could actually make a basket and everyone else was too apologetic to defend him? Still, he seemed to be enjoying himself, laughing with the parents and drinking coffee. Which he choked on when he heard the name of our school called from the podium.
He walked up, a little bewildered, turning to look down on his kids with a little shrug. We all shrugged back, as puzzled as he was. Then, to our shock, the official at the podium handed Father an award and told him that it was the first time in that league that they had ever had a unanimous decision on the Best Sportsmanship Award. We all sat watching, limp with shock, as Father accepted the trophy. We could barely hear him as he said simply "Thank-you," and then we all choked up ~ because we could see that Father had tears streaming down his cheeks and couldn't say any more than that. We knew he was prouder than if we'd won first place in the league.
And in that instant, we understood, and were proud of ourselves, too.
* God bless the soul of Fr. Patat. May his and all the souls of the Faithful Departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.