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Sportsmanship: Common practice or a dying breed?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All right, I don't normally do this, but something simply has to be said.

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, the Nevada Tigers played their last football game of the 2012 season against the Harrisonville Wildcats Wednesday night at Logan Field. It was a great game that I thought was a lot of fun to watch in many ways, but I saw a lot of events play out on that field that really disappointed me.

Tigers head coach Wes Beachler's opinion that "you play football with character, not characters" should be a pretty universal attitude at all levels of the game, but especially in high school when the game is supposed to be just something for the kids to do outside of school to have some fun and support their school. Well, apparently, it's not.

In Wednesday night's game, the Wildcats committed no fewer than four or five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and at least two of them appeared to have been called because of the actions of quarterback Zach Davidson and two more for those of offensive lineman Joe Schlecter. Obviously, since neither player was ejected by officials in accordance with National Federation of State High School Associations rules, multiple penalties were not actually credited to either of them, but certainly could have been.

On top of those penalties, the Wildcats were called for multiple other personal fouls such as one instance of roughing the passer late in the game -- all while holding a lead.

In my mind, that was more than enough reason to be disappointed in the example set forth by all involved, but that wasn't all that went wrong. Nevada linebacker Alex Francis went down late in the game with an injury and instead of taking a knee and waiting like the rest of the Tigers did and any other team would do in such a situation, the Wildcats simply gathered together and started talking and throwing water bottles around like it was a timeout -- all while standing about 4 yards away from where Francis was lying on the field being tended to by the trainer and Tigers coaches.

I don't normally agree with fans yelling to players on the field about things they see and don't like, but that was one time when I found it absolutely fine. One man sitting almost directly in front of my spot in the press box a few rows down stood up and yelled at the Harrisonville sideline, "Have some respect!"

Eventually, the Harrisonville sideline did take a knee and wait for Francis to get up and leave the field -- an act that was met with cheers, shouts and even a standing ovation by some Nevada fans -- but I don't think anyone would argue with me when I say that should have happened sooner.

I have to admit, when all of those things occurred, I reacted in the same way as many fans who were there watching the game. I was angry. But now that I've taken a little bit of time to look back on it and think, my feelings have shifted to simple disappointment because in that game and a number of other games this season, the Tigers had good reason to lose their composure and start just going off.

What I was really impressed with is the fact that the Tigers didn't succumb to any of the urges to engage in similar behavior that could easily have come from their situation. When you're down 21-0 already and the first quarter isn't even over, it gets really easy to simply give up and start taking out your frustration on the competition, which will lead to a multitude of unsportsmanlike activities occurring, almost certainly.

Of the six penalties the Tigers committed in the contest, none of them were for unsportsmanlike conduct of any kind. Throughout his coaching career, Beachler's main focus has been molding football players into men whose character and poise in tough situations should be admired.

I haven't really had a whole lot of opportunity to actually watch Harrisonville play, but if Wednesday's game is any indication of how they normally act, I have to seriously question the probability that those players will leave their high school with such a strong head start on becoming good and successful men. But even if it wasn't characteristic of how the Wildcats typically play football, that sort of behavior has to be learned somewhere or it won't occur. Whether it's from head coach Chuck Lliteras or in their home lives, those players learned to act that way from someone and have obviously not been shown that it's not OK.

But all feelings aside, I know how easy it is to focus on the negatives after a game like that and that's the last thing I want to do. It was a great game and I had a lot of fun watching it, especially when the Tigers put up 19 unanswered points in the second quarter to turn what looked like a blowout into a nail-biter at halftime.

I joked with Coach Beachler earlier in the season after the Pleasant Hill game that if the Tigers kept playing games like the one they did that night, they were going to give me gray hair before I even turn 25, but you know what? I wouldn't trade any of the experiences I've had watching this team play this year for anything.

I saw ups, downs and everything in between over the course of what turned out to be a great season. I know it didn't end the way anyone -- myself included -- would have liked, but hey, it was fun.

I could go on and on all day about what I enjoyed about this football season, but I won't. I'll just say this: an 8-3 record in which all three losses came against top-10 ranked opponents is pretty good, if you ask me.

I've told a few people since the game ended here at the Daily Mail office and even said it to Logan Field game clock operator Phil Gordon that I wasn't ready to quit covering football yet, but even though it's all over now, there's very little about this season about which anyone should look back on and be unhappy.

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so i guess playing music so loud over the press box speakers during harrisonville timeouts that the players couldnt hear the coach is sportsmanlike?? i dont know what was said to get unsportsmanlike penalties by harrisonville but after all the rediculous calls by a certain referee in that game i know i would have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. that was the most one sided officiating ive ever seen at the high school level.

-- Posted by kde76 on Fri, Nov 2, 2012, at 4:55 PM

I guess we now know where the boys of Harrisonville get their attitude, don't we kde76. No matter how bad things are going, and in this case where the team was winning, does a player act like a 2 year old.

-- Posted by jeepdrvr2000 on Fri, Nov 2, 2012, at 5:25 PM

I do live in harrisonville but I'm from nevada...

-- Posted by kde76 on Fri, Nov 2, 2012, at 7:04 PM

it dont matter im so glad our tigers had respect maybe others need to learn from our nevada tigers just saying

-- Posted by HEREWEGOAGAIN10 on Fri, Nov 2, 2012, at 8:49 PM

Stay classy Nevada...Ron Burgundy

-- Posted by kepler0565 on Thu, Nov 8, 2012, at 10:30 AM

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Eric Wade
Beyond the Bench
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