Sports Inspiration Isn't Always About Winning

There's a lot going on in the world right now, a lot of bad news. In times like this we look to hobbies and interests for distraction, and following professional sports has long been one of those activities. For as many fans there are of major league sports, there are as many detractors. I'm not here to say either side doesn't have its points, rather, to say that for all the negative in professional sports, they do have their moments. And its not just about the successes of teams or players, its not all about winning. The past few days have displayed moments of true sportsmanship in its best sense from baseball to basketball to golf, in moments that show perseverance, but more importantly caring, and vulnerability. Something we need more of, especially among men.

Freddie Freeman consoles opponent José Iglesias
photo cr. USA Today

In sports, from youth all the way up to professional, we are taught that our opponents are like enemies. In order to beat them we need to see them as antagonists and not peers or friends. But that often is not the case. Often, a friend, or at least someone to respect, is on the other side, the other team. Of course you want to beat them,the goal is to win, but can't we do it with mutual respect and admiration? Of course we can, and it does happen, just rarely. But why? Not only that but where boys and men especially are concerned, we are taught that sensitivity is a bad thing (and not just in sports). But again why? When we do see these things, when men are able to show respect and caring for each other, nothing bad happens, in fact its usually the opposite. Sports, athletes, all of us, are made better when empathy are added to the mix.

Over the weekend, two MLB players bonded over a similar experience when one reached out to the other in a show of emotion and emotional support. José Iglesias had just made his first base hit of the season when he welled up in tears at first base. José had just lost his father, who was always there to see his son play. Freddie Freeman, Jose's opponent an first basemen, was there and asked what was wrong. José told him and Freddie embraced him. Freddie has lost his mom at an early age and understood the loss of a parent. This on-field shared embrace and moment of empathy for some may have broken the rules of engagement, but how can anyone deny that this is actually a good thing? It can only help for fans, especially youth, to see a man caring for each another's well-being and showing support. I wish we would see more of these displays.

Right here in Milwaukee, the Bucks NBA team took an action that may seem as, if not more, out of character for a franchise than the Freeman display. On the last game of the season, they started Jrue Holiday when they sat and rested other starters. He started the game and played 8 seconds, enough to foul another player then get benched. They let him start so that he would get a salary bonus. By playing his 67th game of the season he reached a milestone that awarded him over $300,000. The Bucks easily could have sat him, again the other stars and starters of the team were benched for the game to rest and not risk injury before the playoffs. No one would have blinked an eye at Jrue being included. But coach Budenholzer did the honorable thing and started Holiday so he could get the bonus. This cost the team, but I am sure it instilled faith and appreciation for the organization by not only Holiday but the rest of the Bucks players, and even possibly other players around the league. The Bucks lost the game, but they won. The Bucks showed they are a stand-up organization that supports their players.

Jrue Holiay (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Finally, two things happened during the PGA Masters. One player won without winning, and another player admitted to an emotional display that many would try to hide. Let's start with the latter. Scottie Scheffler would go on to with the Masters, but he admitted he "cried like a baby this morning. [He] was so stressed out. [He] didn't know what to do." He was with his wife, no one needed to know, but at the podium in his acceptance, he revealed this. What may seem unmanly to some, he was open about, and he went on to win. An emotional release did not cause him to fail. Shocking. In the same competition, Tiger Woods was far behind in the final leaderboard. But across the board people respected his performance, as it came just one year after a serious car accident where he nearly lost a leg and severely injured his back. He lasted all four days of the Masters, making the cut for the weekend then surviving two more days. There are many valid - if opposite - opinions about Tiger, he has been both inspiring and disappointing in his personal life, but no one can say he isn't persistent. He could have given up a few times in his career, but he is showing that you can come back from serious injury and be impactful in the arena.

Let's hope there continue to be stories like all of these this year. It's been a rough two years or more, in other news it continues to be rough, and I myself have had a drought during that time. I would love if I continued to be inspired weekly by sports or other storied about men being, well, Greater, in Milwaukee and around the world.

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