I witnessed a marked contrast in class yesterday between what happened at the U.S. Open Tennis Championship and the Clemson – Texas A&M football game. The display at the U.S. Open was a classic example of how NOT to act in any athletic event. This was not a simple tennis match but a championship that was televised around the world. People in other nations look for an excuse to hate America and the values we stand for. Serena Williams gave them a reason to think Americans are arrogant and have a “win at all cost” attitude. Williams accused the official of “cheating” her out of a match and possibly the championship. She verbally berated the official and made a spectacle of herself before millions watching the event. Serena behaved like a spoiled child who didn’t get her way. The winner, Naomi Osaka idolized Serena as a child and apologized for winning the match. To make matters worse, the crowd booed the winner of the match. I’m disappointed in Ms. Williams and the spectators for very unsportsmanlike behavior. I have never seen Tiger Woods look for excuses for a poor performance. I do not follow tennis very closely, but Ms. Williams performance gives tennis a bad name. I know there have been male players who displayed similar childish behavior in the past. I don’t excuse their behavior either. There must be a winner and a loser in every athletic contest and most of us don’t believe in “participation” trophies. We need to get over the idea that winning is the only acceptable outcome of a contest. No one performs flawlessly each time they enter the arena. Provided you gave 100% of your best effort there is no disgrace in losing. Serena should have been graceful in defeat instead of claiming that the crown was stolen from her.
Contrast Williams behavior with Jimbo Fisher, coach of the Texas A&M aggies yesterday. In the final minutes of the game with Clemson the aggies were driving for a touchdown. One of his receivers caught a pass and was headed for the endzone when he lost control of the football and fumbled it into and out of the endzone. The result was a touchback (not a touchdown) and gave the ball back to Clemson. Fisher did not get angry and berate the officials. A&M later scored and nearly won the contest. Fisher could have rightly claimed that call “cheated” A&M from winning a very important football game. Like Tiger Woods accepting a bad day, Fisher accepted the call as part of the game. Superior athletes overcome obstacles when possible. Losses in sport are difficult to accept but they are not the end of the world. More important issues face each of us daily; those are the ones we need to win. Serena set a terrible example for young athletes and for the American image among foreign viewers. Jimbo Fisher was the real winner yesterday and his terrific players who never gave up against a formidable opponent. That is true sportsmanship!