It is fun to see that the San Francisco Giants have clenched their “wild card” playoff spot and will play the first game of the post season against the Pittsburgh Pirates this Wednesday. That said, I was greatly disappointed in outfielder Hunter Pence while watching the game today against the Padres.
His recent comments quoted and celebrated by play by play announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow were not only grossly unfounded, they reflect of one of the things that is seriously wrong not only just in sports, but in our egocentric, super self-centered society as a whole in America.
Pence’s quote was only on screen for just a few seconds, so unfortunately I didn’t have time to write it down. But the basic core of it was …”The only reason I play this game every day is to win the World Series…Nothing else matters…The only thing that anybody cares about, the only thing that is REAL, is whether or not you win the World Series… Nothing else matters but that, and we don’t play for STATS.”
Well TIME OUT…We know all players absolutely DO care about their stats, even Pence if he was honest, so we can definitely call B.S. on that. And by the way, the stats reflect more on the “how you play the game” part of baseball, as opposed to whether you won the World Series that year. So nothing else matters but that Hunter? Get real.
Let me ask my readers a question: Is this what you teach your son or daughter about the sports they play? Heaven help us if the answer is yes.
We lie to ourselves as fans when we hold up these kinds of examples as “inspirational”, the way Kuiper and Krukow did during today’s game. Prior to this, I have always liked Hunter Pence because I felt he consistently showed a lot of heart and dedication on the field, much like my favorite player of all time, the Cincinnati Reds’ legend Pete Rose. Ironically, this is something Pence and I apparently share in common, as he has recently identified Pete Rose as one of his idols. (On a side note, have you seen the latest “Sketchers” commercial with Pete Rose…if not you have to Google it, it is very funny!…They need to let Pete into the Hall of Fame for crying out loud, enough is enough, but I digress.)
I GUARANTEE you that Pete Rose would not go out of his way to make it clear to kids and adults alike, that he doesn’t see any value at all in anything anyone does as an athlete, UNLESS they win the final championship. The sportsmanship…The “how you play the game” as an example to kids, reflected by players such as Derek Jeter and Buster Posey…The growth and learning process every season along the way, WIN OR LOSE…All that doesn’t matter and ISN’T REAL as far as Pence is concerned. Well I’m sorry, but that’s such a crock of
If Pence’s views were a minority opinion held by just a few, it wouldn’t be an issue to be concerned about. We could just roll our eyes, and wait for him to scream and yell all his F-bomb combinations into the San Francisco sunset (Comcast had to announce an apology for airing Pence’s speech after they clinched the wild card, solely because of his endless stream of creative variations of the F-word in seemingly every sentence.) His views are widely commonplace in sports, encouraged not only by managers and owners at the Big League level, but more disturbingly instilled by high school and college coaches at the junior league levels.
On a more personal note, about 4 years ago, I began a grass roots effort to build the only recreational women’s fastpitch softball league in Sacramento. I was fortunate on two occasions to receive a little support from the Sacramento Bee with an article about the league (http://www.sacramentofastpitch.com/index.php?id=435), which described that without it there is no place for women fastpitch softball players to play after they finish high school and/or college. (Fastpitch softball and soccer are the two premier sports that girls play in school sports.)
The problem I quickly encountered was the very same and ugly “winning is all that matters” mentality from a significant number of the women who responded and joined the league. Fortunately they weren’t the majority of our players. Unfortunately, they ended up influencing quite a few of our players with that unhealthy attitude, causing serious damage to the positive progress we were making in building the league.
I had to part company with many of the bad apples, some of whom were good apples to begin with, but had befriended the “Hunter Pence” types and were pulled into their negative gravity, so to speak. As I write this, we are currently still in the process of rebuilding the league from the damage this caused.
One of the players who caused most of the problems with this “nothing matters but winning” attitude was a lady who I thought was going to be a big help to our league. On the surface, she appeared to be a responsible “soccer mom” type gal, with her head screwed on straight. (maybe I don’t know soccer mom types like I thought I did) She told me she had been a coach in Elk Grove for girls fastpitch softball and I was very excited to have found her.
But unbeknownst to me, as she discovered my philosophy of building a fun, supportive recreational league for friendly competition, she quickly turned on me behind the scenes, and began undermining my efforts. Hunter Pence’s quote was basically her mantra as well, and she began influencing many other of our players with the idea that winning is entirely ALL that mattered, and ALL that they were there for, not to have fun playing the game together.
This player sent me a very angry, harsh and attacking email letter just before I realized I had no choice but to remove her from the league. She specifically went on about not caring about making friends or “friendly competition”, and only caring about winning at all cost, claiming to be speaking on behalf of many other players.
This attitude is very destructive at any level, but especially at a youth or recreational level in our schools and/or in the community. The root of this attitude is grounded in a willful disgust for ethics, good values and The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Instead of treating others who share your love of the same game with respect, just as you would like them to treat you, you are taught to look at the opposing team with contempt. You are taught to “do it to them before they do it to you.”
And possibly even more importantly, you are taught to look at YOURSELF with contempt if you lose, instead of your coach teaching you first and foremost that winning or losing ISN’T the ultimate point of playing the sport. The ultimate point is enjoying the game you are playing, and playing it honorably and respectfully – not just toward your teammates but toward the other team as well, and learning to work together as a team, win or lose.
Obviously no one plays a sport HOPING to lose, but everybody can’t always win. And hoping to win is not the same as HAVING to win at all cost, or nothing else matters…or nothing else is REAL… as Hunter Pence was praised by announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow today.
Hunter, sports and team competition is about HOW you play the game, not about loud grandstanding that nothing else is real unless you win the championship, not about how many different ways you can incorporate the F-word in the process – and it is absolutely not “just about winning”. A whole lot of other REAL stuff matters along the way, far beyond whether you win the championship.
And in this case Hunter, you don’t need 3 strikes to be “called out looking”…You are reinforcing a totally upside down, wrong example as an athlete for young people. Right now, why don’t you just focus more on NOT striking out as much…I’m sure Pete Rose would agree that would be a much more accurate and productive example about what is “REAL” in baseball…that being just playing your best whatever the final outcome, win or lose.