In a world where protecting everyone’s feelings is the primary focus of every one, everywhere, it is impossible to discuss the other side of sportsmanship, the side where celebrating a touchdown or outscoring an opponent by 100 points is okay, without upsetting someone. It is impossible to find any support of the notion that competition and doing anything to win is just as important as being a good sport. Articles across the web are cluttered with phrases like “sportsmanship is the most important part of the game” or “being a good sport is more important than winning.”
But what if it isn’t, especially at the higher levels of competition? What if winning is the most important part because the stakes have been raised so high that losing could result in a huge pay cut? How can we justify penalizing athletes for celebrating a great play or becoming emotional in the heat of big game? Athletes like Antonio Brown have been fined repeatedly for celebrating scoring touchdowns when the whole point of paying him these absurd amounts of money is so he will score touchdowns so the team can win. The leagues completely contradict themselves in these instances because they expect fans to continue watching, to continue paying for tickets and gear and concessions, but they remove the aspect that fans want to see. No one wants to see their team lose and no one wants to see a game where the athletes no longer care or show emotion because of the possibility that they will be penalized for doing so. The leagues at the pinnacle of their respective sport cannot have it both ways and they need to choose which war they want to continue fighting.
Now I am not justifying actions that are completely outrageous, like Ron Artest fighting fans in the stands or players intentionally hurting each other because the moment has become heated. I also still believe that good sportsmanship should be taught from the very moment a young athlete steps out onto the field or court or mat or whatever, for the first time. All I am saying is that as the competition becomes better then yes sportsmanship starts to come second to winning. Know where the line is drawn between winning at all costs and being a bad person, but do what you have to do to win because there is too much money involved to just lose because you were “a good sport.”