Shaking hands after a game and helping a player up off the deck — not kicking him when he’s down — were as much a part of the game as keeping score.
Somehow, sportsmanship has become a lost art. Instead, you see professionals from Tiger Woods to Mike Tyson — cursing, throwing things and, well, biting off their opponents’ ear.
Oh, there is a spot of sportsmanship every now and then. Once in a great while, for instance, I have seen a good hockey game break out at the fights on ice. For the most part, however, sports are often a finger-pointing, trash-talking, obscene gesture-throwing, run up the score-making, circus.
But, like a York peppermint patty for someone with halitosis, there was a breath of fresh air in Ohio recently that has caught the attention of the entire country.
Perhaps you have seen the video that has had over 2.5 million views on YouTube? It’s almost scary that an example of good sportsmanship like the one that Meghan Vogel showed at the Ohio High School Track and Field Championships would be such a rare occurrence that it would create such a incredible reaction.
But folks, that is where we are. Bad sportsmanship has become so entrenched that when someone does the right thing, acts in the proper way, it is stunning, almost surreal.
That’s not to say Vogel does not deserve all the accolades she is receiving — she does. Yet, she was only being herself. No doubt she is puzzled by the attention she is getting from national media outlets such as NBC Nightly News and USA Today, not to mention the standing ovation she received on the day the event occurred.
In case you missed it, this is what happened:
Vogel, a junior at West Liberty-Salem High School in Ohio’s Champaign County, had already captured the state title in the 1,600-meter run.
An hour later she found her self in dead last in the 3,200-meter run but was ready to pass Arlington sophomore Arden McMath, who had collapsed 20 yards from the finish line.
Vogel just could not stand to see her competitor in such dire straits and stopped, got her up, and helped her slowly work to the finish. At the line, Vogel even made sure McMath finished one step ahead of her, securing 14th place.
“I thought this would blow over in a day or two,” Vogel told the Springfield News-Sun, “but it kind of blew up.”
What I appreciate even more about this story is that it was broke by sports writer David Jablonski, a former colleague of mine during my five-year stint at the News-Sun — perhaps one of the greatest small metro papers known to mankind.
Jablonski noted that, besides receiving emails from around the country, he had been contacted for details by Good morning America, well-known TV show “The View”, a radio station in Cleveland, and even a German magazine. “I was amazed by the reaction and how it exploded,” Jablonski told me. “I knew it was a great story right away but I didn’t think it would go national. I guess people were in the mood for some good news.”
Well, not everybody …
As Jablonski mentioned, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, referenced Vogel on his Monday show and used her story to launch into a discussion about the “decline of American competitiveness.”
Perhaps some would have rather seen Vogel step on McMath’s back as she raced past her and mocked her as she lay. Nah, those type of stories are a dime a dozen these days.
But what Vogel did? It was remarkable, unexpected, classy and — unfortunately — a blast from the past.