Sportsmanship Isn’t Just for Sports

Dr. P.M. Forni spoke Thursday night at Drake University about civility. Too bad some of you missed it. You could have learned a few things about self-restraint and handling your emotions.

Thursday night, I sat in on a lecture by Dr. P.M. Forni about civility as part of the “Better Together Iowa” series, hosted by Drake University, Character Counts in Iowa, IPTV, and Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, among several sponsors. 

I won’t get into the intellectual discussion of what Forni said and what I dissected.  I found another way to describe it. 

Pee-Wee football, high school, colleges, and the NHL shake hands after the game has ended.

By using sports again. 

A time honored tradition in American sports is the handshake at the end of the games by both teams.  There is always a losing team and a winning team.  Losing sucks, but at the end of the competition, if your opponent played a better game, made fewer mistakes, and did the little things, they deserve to win, in spite of a clock operator screwing up, a referee with a “gotcha agenda”, and other silly innate distractions. 

From Little League to college, we are taught to be civil and show good sportsmanship as kids. 

It’s when we become adults that we stop acting like kids, and start acting like blood-thristy sharks.  Lack of self-restraint, becoming defensive, shouting someone down for having a different opinion, and always (always) trying to get the last word in every argument. 

Unlike Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy shows class and civility regardless if he won or lost a game. Many of us are sore losers and want to take it out on others. That causes violence.

You don’t have to win every argument, and get pissed when you lose.  Being a sore loser is just as bad in real life as it is in sports.  As much as we love sports and advocate sportsmanship, not using those same principles in our non-sports daily life is cheating ourselves.


“Revealing Your Character” in Full

On Thursday, I attended a function that the Social Media Club of Des Moines and Character Counts in Iowa launched called “Reveal Your Character.” The purpose of this initiative is to reel in the vitriol that has started to encompass the internet, including blogs, social sites, and message boards.

Adding in the recent rashes of suicides due to cyber-bullying and denigrating harassing comments, the light bulb has finally been turned on and people are starting to realize just how far the bottom has fallen in society with respects to being civil and fostering dialogue that doesn’t cross into the Twilight Zone of shouting matches and crude behavior.

It’s about damn time.  Long before this initiative, I have written in the past about curbing bad behavior.  In fact, the title of this blog was going to be “Civility is Not Dead”, but as I started blogging this site, it became clear that there was more topics to write about besides civility and character everyday.  The least read posts on my blog is when I write about civility.

That’s telling and sad.


Juice is a weekly alternate magazine.

For full disclosure, I freelance blog for Juice and offer comments on stories on the Des Moines Register’s website as well.  I have seen enough uncivil and demeaning comments over the 4 years I’ve been writing for Juice and on the Des Moines Register, it makes me sick.  When message boards started popping up after the creation of the internet, I used to be one of many millions of anonymous posters with a fake name.  I learned quickly on that in order to gain traction and build a good reputation, I need to back my opinion and observations with facts, write with clarity, and show respect when someone has a dissenting opinion.

When I began blogging for Juice in 2006, part of the deal was that I had to stop hiding behind an anonymous fake name or handle when it comes to posting.  Every word that I type out on this keyboard will have my name attached to it, like an electronic signature.


Esteemed sports writer and columnist Dave Kindred.


In certain cases,, a website board for mainly print journalists, they have to use handles as a way to protect their real identities from being revealed and thus putting them at risk to be outed. Some media members like Dave Kindred, Elliotte Friedman, and Gregg Doyel will frequent and post comments on the site with their real names.

When people do not “police” themselves when they communicate online, things get out of hand quickly and there’s no way to stop it.

Hopefully with the “Revealing Your Character” initiative, small steps can be taken to clean up the junk.

Yes, the First Amendment is an important tool to voice opinions, but there should be restraint and common sense when utilizing it.  That means you can disagree without slandering, threatening, and being a fool.

Sports and News Links – August 17, 2010

Edmonton manager Brent Bowers and umpire Billy Van Raaphorst. Courtesy of Brian Gavriloff/Edmonton Journal

It’s been a week-and-a-half since I aggregated some stories of interest to post.  Let’s take a look at a few today as the rain continues to fall on the Iowa State Fair.

Jeff Perlman, Sports IllustratedBrent Bowers outburst towards umpire Billy Van Raaphorst in a minor league baseball game was not a surprise.  But it was what Bowers said to Van Raaphort that forced him to resign and brings light into the gay and lesbian angle in the world of sports.

Carl Hartman, AP via ABC News:  Several Democrats and Republicans are advocating a return to civility as they point to Calvin Coolidge as a great example.  I wrote a post about civility in June featuring former Congressman Jim Leach.

Francisco Rodriguez aka K-Rod aka K-O'ed for the year

Lisa Olson, Fanhouse:  New York Mets reliever Francisco Rodriguez (aka K-Rod) physically assaulted his girlfriend’s father near the team’s family room inside Citi Field after a game.  The after-effects of the incident puts the Mets in familiar territory:  how to mishandle a PR fiasco without really trying.

Alan Schwarz, NY Times:  a peer-reviewed paper to be released on Wednesday could reopen the diagnosis of ALS and Lou Gehrig.  The study suggests that the demise of athletes like Lou Gehrig and soldiers given a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, might have been catalyzed by injuries only now becoming understood: concussions and other brain trauma.

Nicole Purcell, dLifePurcell writes a poignant column about how her aunt’s choice in not taking care of her diabetes led to her death have made Purcell vigilant in managing her diabetes and making the choice to live.

Don’t Drown Out the Speaker

When someone speaks, stop talking. You might miss something important.

Public speaking is a skill.  In order to hear someone speak, it requires your undivided attention.  When that doesn’t happen, then the code of civility is broken in my opinion.

DSM Magazine had their Fall issue unveiling on Thursday at Midwest Aesthetics and a large crowd was in attendance.  At 6:00 p.m., the short 10-minute program got underway with the staff from DSM talking. The problem was most of us couldn’t hear who was at the mic because the crowd in the back wouldn’t stop yapping.  In fact, they started to get louder.

After several attempts to quiet the crowd down, even a bad feedback from the microphone, it looked hopeless.

It’s a damn good thing I remembered to use my public address announcer voice.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, would you stop talking so that the lady can finish!”

It got quiet real fast.  Then a large smattering of applause rang out in approval of what I did.  Quite embarrassing if you asked me.  I would never imagined using an old skill I developed back in high school:  doing PA work for my high school basketball team.

Lawrence Tanter, the PA announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers. He's one of the best in the business, and he's a University of Dubuque grad.

I grew up listening to old-school public address announcers like Fr. Bob Holzhammer at Iowa, Bob Justis at UNI, and Lawrence Tanter with the Los Angeles Lakers.  PA announcers have a very important job:  announce the players, the fouls, who scored, and not draw attention to themselves like some of today’s version of PA announcers.  I understand that it’s their job to get the fans involved in the game, but fans are smart enough to know what’s going on during the game.

The audience should know when to stop talking when they see or hear someone behind a microphone talking.  It’s called giving the speaker your undivided attention.

We say we want civility, but we don’t want to practice it

I wasn’t sure what to call this blog when I created it, only that I wanted to show that civility in this world isn’t dead, and by making some attitude changes in how we act towards each other, the better we are in addressing issues.  Henceforth, the url address of TCMSM has “civility is not dead” in it.

Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach

The Deseret News published an editorial on Sunday, cautiously exuding the call for civility after listening to a speech by former Iowa congressman Jim Leach.  Leach was regarded as one of the most respected members in Congress and someone who vehemently detests incivility.  Even in his last campaign in 2006, when he lost to Dave Loebsack, the both of them were commended by the Iowa City Press-Citizen for running a clean campaign and never resorting to negative mud-slinging, which is about as extinct as the Do-Do bird.

It doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to figure out how much we have deteriorated as a society when it comes to refusing to listen to a different opinion, resorting to shouting down someone who doesn’t agree with you, and doing childish stuff to gain an advantage (see Rob Tully).

I find it interesting and sad that we, the citizens, want civility, and yet we can’t get away from watching shows and behaviors that promote being uncivil.  We demand for elected officials to run clean campaigns, and yet we vote based on misinformation, fear, and dirty tactics.

Regardless how much I write about civility and encourage it, my generation isn’t going to care about how important it is to be fully “open-minded” in conversations.  That means listening to a different opinion that we’re not going to like.  As hard as it is, we have to listen to those opinions.

Reading the comments from the editorial shows why we have chosen not to be respectful and we think it’s okay to get away with it. Add the lukewarm endorsement by the Deseret News pretty much shows that civility is something that Americans don’t give a damn about and could care less to re-learn.

To quote Paul Selberg, the host of “Hot Mess Express”, who is featured in this week’s Juice“Stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone.” It looks like Leach and I might be the only ones who believe in working toward the return of civility.

No wonder why I changed the title of my blog from “Civility is Not Dead” to “The (Convoluted) Mind of a Single Man.” No one wants to read about how bad our behavior is these days.