Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The two sides of sportsmanship

With Shea racing an early race and my race not until 1:30, I'm spending quite a few hours hanging out at the cross races this year. My people watching theme of the weekend - sportsmanship.

Webster's says:
sportsmanship: noun, conduct (as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport

Wikipedia might have it better:
Sportsmanship is conformance to the rules, spirit, and etiquette of sport. More grandly, it may be considered the ethos of sport. ... Sportsmanship expresses an aspiration or ethos that the activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one's competitors.
Perhaps more to the point, I think of it as how one responds to adversity - either our own or that of the competition.   This aspect defines us as cyclists - either as true lovers of the sport or simply riders. Here are just two stories from my weekend - both are responses to cyclists' own adversity and happened within minutes of each other...

I was in the pits for a several of the B-men on Sunday.  Standing there with several C3 guys, chatting and watching the barrier/fly-over combo (cheers to race coordinators for figuring out a way to put the pits in a great place to watch!).  Near the end of the race, a rider rolls up to the log barrier, dismounts onto an apparently twisted ankle, and promptly slams his bike across the log in frustration.  Just behind him, another competitor was forced to avert.  I watched in horror - I couldn't believe twisted-ankle-guy would jeopardize the safety of his compatriots like that let alone allow himself to show such disrespect for himself and his bike.  He hobbled through the tape into the pits, threw his bike on the ground again, and sat, massaging his ankle.  I was disappointed for this guy - here, he had a chance to show himself how tough he can be mentally and blew it.  One of the officials watched the whole thing.  Here's a note - if you are out racing cross, you shouldn't need to be reminded of your love and respect for the sport by anyone with a clipboard.

By contrast, about a lap into the B-men's race, Matty B. rolled past the pits but panted '10 speed rear'.  He had rolled a rear tubular on Saturday, and, as such, already had his own spare wheel on.  No one else is in the pit to ask, so I go scrambling across the course to the reg area, looking for one of my own or Matt's teammates.  Finding a teammate of mine, we grabbed his spare bike off the car and I brought it back to the pit, prepared to cannibalize the rear.  By the time I returned, three others had two rear 10 speed wheels ready for Matt to come back around with a leaking clincher. 

About 3 laps later into the race, we see, halfway back on the lap, coming up the steep hill, Matt is now running with his bike shouldered.  He had rolled the borrowed tubular clean off the rim such that it was dangling only by its valve stem.  A long time of running later, he comes back into the pit.  This had given us time to put air in his own clincher, make sure it wasn't leaking, and be ready for a second wheel change for Matt on the day (third on the weekend).  He only had a lap to go in the race and was DFL.  But he pulled it together to avoid the DNF - showing us how much he loves the sport and how he took his own adversity as a challenge - a test of determination to finish.

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