So I read this story over on HuffPo today, and I was shocked at how people were gushing over this Spanish guys "courageousness" and "sportsmanship." I've gotta say, I thought the guy was a complete idiot. When did this become the standard in sports and competition in general? When did we decide that it was unsportsmanlike to take advantage of another athlete's mistake?
Some posters on this story tried (correctly) to compare the Kenyan athlete's mistake to the mistakes in football that the opposing team uses to their advantage. They were quickly shot down by others who said that this was comparing "apples to orange." How is this different? (I'll remind you that it isn't like this guy fell feet from the finish line with the nearest competitor 50 yards behind. But even then, all runners are equally at risk for falling.)
Strategy and situational awareness are at least as important in distance running as physical fitness. Somehow I get the idea that some of the people who didn't like the football comparisons think that running is somehow all about who is the best athlete, that it is a more "pure" sport than others. These people are obviously not runners.
So which is it gents? Is this guy a gentlemen or a moron? Is he a hero or does he represent all that is bad about modern competition (i.e., we're all winners, try your best, everyone gets a medal...)?
Look, I appreciate that I may have been a bit over the top when I used "idiotic." I already said as much. I'm not questioning that Fernandez had good intentions. I thought I was making a simple point, asking for a reasonable discussion, about whether we're putting too much emphasis on what we're deeming "fairness" in competitive sports (the whole "equality of opportunity" vs. "equality of outcomes" thing). I would not have stopped for a competitor with whom nothing was wrong, to whom nothing untoward had happened. Apparently, neither would have Fernandez's coach. Had he won the race, there would not have been an asterisk next to his name. He didn't cheat. He had no unfair advantage. There was nothing physically or mentally wrong with Mutai. By the rules of the sport, he would have won.
I recognize that the rules don't cover everything, that some situations do demand a certain self sacrifice and nobility that we call "sportsmanship." I simply asked if perhaps we haven't broadened the definition of that word a bit too much. I stated that the higher the level the competition, the more we risk belittling our competitors when we offer unneeded or unasked for "help," even if our intentions are good. I believe in this situation that was the case. I never thought everyone would agree with me, but I expected at least some discussion. Instead, I apparently don't know what class is, have no class, am stealing diamonds from old ladies who drop them on the street.
At the same time we get responses from some posters that both prove my point and are highly offensive. LShieldes subtly showed his elitism when he gushed about how good it made him feel to see our superior, elite athletes clamor to watch these poor athletes from pissant countries who have no chance to win, as if they're retards and cripples but oh how nice to see them try! (facetiousness intended). Michael Denny when all out clansman, indicating that Mutai's confusion was the result of being a "third world negro (never mind that he is a world class athlete, an Olympic medalist)," while Fernandez is described as an "open hearted and genteel European gentleman," as if race and nationality have anything to do with anything.
What do I hear from everyone else? Crickets. Apparently it's a capital crime amongst this group not to pity competitors when they make mistakes that they are expected not to make (mistakes, I'll reiterate, that competitors are expected to take advantage of in every competition, from chess to football), but justifying our pity through racism and elitism is just fine because those poor "colored people" from pissant countries NEED our help! What a bunch of fucking hypocrites.
This might be one of the first times I've been called an elitist. I think Titus might have called me one once, but I ignore half of his rambling. Is this what its like when doves cry?
Do you feel mischaracterized by being called an elitist? Your post sounded that way, but if you feel like I misunderstood then I'll take you at your word.
That said, I think I've been abundantly clear that despite my feelings about this particular incident that I understand that there are many instances when it is appropriate to extend a hand to an opponent. Regardless, you've felt the need to tell me that I don't understand what class is, don't have it, and started a wonderful trend of comments that devolved into me buying jewelry for my wife with the revenue from lost/stolen wallets. Thanks for that.
You're too worked-up over trivial nonsense.
This isn't a matter of fairness. Either outcome would've been 'fair', and within the rules. He isn't a saint ... or an 'idiot'. The guy didn't think he deserved to win. He's probably right. I wouldn't string-him-up if he'd gone ahead and won ... but, winning on a technicality isn't the same thing as actual victory.
Your question gave two options -- hero or moron. Most said "neither". There's a discussion worth having about sportsmanship vs. competition. Lousy example, though.
Find an example of the actual better man taking a dive for "sportsmanship", then have the disucssion. This is an example of an actual loser failing to let the better man take a dive. Not the same thing.
Jared, kid. Your reading comprehension skills are absolutely for shit. You have literally completely missed the core point of every single poster. I officially give up.
You know what? You're right. I re-read your post. I totally fucked that up. Apparently missing one or two words actually can change the meaning of a paragraph. I based at least one other post on my erroneous assumption and maligned you. No excuse for that. Truly, I apologize.
The enemy of my enemy...
Oh Hell! I come back from making Spanish rice (think it'll work with ketchup instead of tomato paste?) and you're kissing ass, BIG disappointment Jared. I'll find my Saviour somewhere else, carry on...
All right, folks. I've had a little time to sit down this evening and really look over my original post, as well as re-read all of the other posts on this thread. As much as it pains me to admit it, I need someone to pass me a big old fork because I have to eat a rather large crow.
I went off on this topic a bit hot. I offered the group a false choice, a logical no-no. I didn't real all the posts as well as I should have. I got married to my initial premise early on and didn't let go. Fact is, even though I probably would have made the same decision as his coach, what Fernandez did was pretty classy and downright rare in modern competition.
So as I accepted this, I tried to figure out why this story had gotten so stuck in my craw. I've come to the conclusion, for better or for worse, that what really annoyed me about this is that I still can't convince myself that Mutai deserved this act of kindness. That dosen't change the honor in what Fernandez did. He didn't have the power of hind sight in that single moment. I suppose it just surprises me that Mutai (for what ever reason) made an ass of himself and was handed a Mulligan, yet if Fernandez would have won he would have gotten the asterisk. Where's Mutai's asterisk?
I know that there are those who want to say Mutai wasn't at fault because he was confused, didn't speak English, etc. Before you go down that road, let me point out a few things (some facts, some assumptions. I tried hard, but couldn't find any more about this race outside this story).
1. Mutai is an elite athlete and Olympic medalist. This was not his first rodeo.
2. He was not the only non-Spanish athlete, almost certainly not the only non-Spanish speaker
3. Everyone else seems to have finished the race without incident.
4. No one, not a coach, not a competitor, not a race official, has mentioned that the location of the finish line was a problem or that language had been an issue in this race.
Assuming these things are true (if you can find a source disproving them please let me know), why was public reaction to Mutai so sympathetic, but not so much with this athlete:
Before you yell "apples and oranges," let me remind you that these were both elite athletes, both at the top of their game, both had thought they had crossed their own finish line (let's assume that this would have been a game-winning play with no time left). Do we castigate DeSean Jackson and not Abel Mutai because Jackson was being a show-boat (keeping in mind that nearly everyone in the NLF has their own personal celebration now and no one normally seems to care)? It is because we see one as privileged an one as disadvantaged, regardless of how they see themselves (many elite Kenyan runners make enough money to live well even in the US and are treated like celebrity in their home country)?
I'll admit that attitudes surrounding modern sports confuse me. We treat good sports like heroes, but we've started to treat winning like it's a dirty word. I appreciate "love of the game" and all, but are we really to believe that any professional athlete gets into it to come in second? Why is the "purity" in some sports (like track and cycling) considered sacrosanct, but in others (football and baseball) no one really seems to care? Lance Armstrong is being stripped of, well, everything. Most of the juicers in the NFL and MLB will still end up in the hall of fame.
Bottom line. We all claim to admire good sports. All of you have said that Mutai should have won because he was the better athlete. Yet most of you didn't give two shits about cross country until yesterday, and despite all the high praise you've given him in a month you will have forget Ivan Fernandez's name (many of you have likely already forgotten it). In a week we'll all be watching a game filled with some of the dirtiest playing, juiced up, show-boating, taking every possible advantage players in the world. And we'll love it.
Money talks, gents. I guess we're ALL a bunch of fucking hypocrites.
Money talks, gents. I guess we're ALL a bunch of fucking hypocrites.
Only you can apologize for a mistake, still try to make your original point, and insult us.
Some of us are (or were) runners, do care about the purity of sport, don't watch professional sports in general (per the above) - my money isn't going to the juiced up crowd. *shrug*
I'm not saying I'm not still a hypocrite, but don't lump me, in with you.
Nobody is treating winning like a dirty word. Winning is great. Sportsmanship (however it is manifested) is an end to itself that can also be great. It neither supplants winning, or demonizes it. Worth celebrating an example of it, regardless of its effect on the outcome.
I don't now, and did not before, make excuses for Mutai. So you can let those points go entirely - he screwed up and whether he should have won, is up for debate - he does have an asterisk. I am celebrating the decision Ivan made on its own merits. Win or lose, Anaya played the game by the rules that he felt were most appropriate to the situation, and I agree with his call on the field, and his racing reputation is spotless. Might be worth second place on this one race, in the long run. Certainly makes him attractive to potential sponsors.
Jared. When you apologise to someone, its sincerity comes into doubt when, in the same post, you still make it clear you are not sorry and then go as far as to call those you are apologising to fucking hypocrites.
You seem to have made up your mind on this non-issue and your follow up responses make it clear to everone that you have not bothered to read any of the responses given more than superficially. With the exception of Denny's blatant racism which I think he sometimes does more to get a rise out of posters like yourself than to express any personal beliefs, you have either missed the point (Shieldes) or ignored the comment's opinion completely (everyone else).
Your premise is that we either agree with the "public" (who I think include more people who watch soaps and like a good tearjerker than follow/play competitive sports) and go "ahhhh" at this case of everyone gets a medal or we agree with you and call the Basque guy an idiot for not taking the win.
What the rest here, shieldes included I think, are saying is that we think your whole debate is bullshit.
here's a quick recap.
Shieldes - "I don't like choosing either word."
Jack B - "I don't think he was courageous or an idiot."
Liam, Daniel - what Jack said
Jesse - Although his opinion strayed from the pack so far, he still agreed that he didn't think it involved the two options you offered "I'd say that it is neither courageous or idiotic,"
SLee - Seemed to agree with Jesse more so than the view of the rest of us as to the core of the topic, but still didn't agree with your premise or either of your options.
Me "This guy is neither."
Denny - Took a different view than others but still thinks your debate is wrong.
Will - "It amazes me that anyone can consider such a man a "complete idiot," "moron," or even wrong. There must be some hidden reasoning I'm not seeing. He's not a hero, either." Once again, disagrees with your entire argument so is neither for or against.
Have you ever competed seriously in a sport? Mine was rowing. I can tell you that the feeling you get when you win is severely diminished when you hear your competition broke an oar or had some other technical problem in the race. In fact, if it is spot quick enough, the race is even restarted, and for any serious competitor, this is a rule you like. No one wants a false victory. Look at Lance. He may have been the best in the world but now he will always be seen as a cheater. Heck, behind his remorseless face, even he got to know it.
Fernandaz is not a hero or an idiot. He's just an athlete who knows the value of a win and like many of us, won't accept a false victory. I won't be giving him a medal for it but I would give him my respect.
Liam brought up a good point about sportsmanship and winning. (reply function not working for me). Winning is great. And I honestly think if you go into a competitive sport and don't want to win then you have no business getting into it and perhaps should find something else to get into. But winning without good sportsmanship is pointless. Look at Armstrong. Drugs or not, he had to work like hell to win those races. Furthermore, considering how rampant doping was in that sport, he's probably still the best in the world. But none of that excuses the fact that he cheated and therefore his wins are worth about as much as a bit of dog crap on my shoe. Victory without good sportsmanship is not a victory worth having.