Beware the Splinters is Salute Magazine’s weekly sports column, authored by Sports Editor Dustin Brown. The column will be a weekly look at something that has ruffled the feathers of Mr. Brown or is just a topic he feels he needs to rant about or discuss. This week’s column focuses on winning and the concept of it in sports, as well as Bryce Harper’s feelings on participation trophies.
In this day and age of participation trophies and one-sport athletes, winning takes a back seat. Unless you discuss the concept of which athlete is the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time for those unfamiliar with the term) in their respective sport. Then, at that point, all hell breaks loose and people start using Google and Wikipedia as their weapons of choice.
When discussing youth sports, people always say “We don’t keep score.” After coaching youth soccer for the past several years, and watching my kids play other sports, I can tell you that is a farce. Every kid on each of those teams knows exactly what the score is at every part of the game.
And every one of those kids asked me why everyone got a trophy.
Having to discuss the mentality of youth sports to a 9-12-year-old child is impossible to win, but coaches are told to refer to league rules. This is a cop-out and takes away from lessons that can be taught at a young age, in my opinion. In life, like in sports, there are only clear winners and losers.
Only some people get promoted, and others get fired. The world works like that and sports does as well.
Bryce Harper commented on the issue of participation trophies recently, and the reaction was mixed. Some hated him for it, other applauded his honesty.
How does this tie into conversations about who is the GOAT in each sport?
Simple, in those conversations, fans look at how many championships players won in their career. Case in point, winning is all that matters in fan’s eyes too.
There isn’t anything wrong with the concept of winning, but there have been players that performed well at the professional level and never won a championship. Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Shawn Kemp, Ken Griffey Jr. and so many other players never tasted the highest achievement possible in their sport.
LeBron James was a player that didn’t gain any notoriety until winning a championship. Now fans are rabidly throwing his name around with Michael Jordan in the GOAT conversation. Most of the time there are valid points on each side of the argument, but again, it points to our obsession with winning.
While the Jordan-James scenario is the biggest argument now–with the NBA Finals taking place–but other sports are privy to the same arguments.
Boxing has a great debate over whether or not Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali is the GOAT.
The arguments will never end because we are too stubborn to let them, but it is a reason sports are great. We can use statistics, our point of view, opinions of other people and things that don’t even correlate to the argument to argue for the sake of it.
But, in the age of participation trophies, remember this last thought.
There will never be another Brady, Montana, LeBron, Kobe, MJ, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Tyson or the hundreds of names I didn’t bring up.
And that is okay because we will all continue to argue our opinion until death takes us all, which is what makes sports great.