You don’t have to win, to “win”

Competition can be defined as “rivalry between two or more persons or groups for an object desired in common, usually resulting in a victor and a loser”.
In most cases there is a loser, but can both persons ever “win”. The idea in any competition is to obviously be the victor in the end. I know when I play sports or anything, for that matter, I want to win. It is the nature of the beast; you want to make someone else the loser. However, there are some occurrences where the “must win” attitude is pushed aside to help make things right.

Picture this….you are out on the links on a beautiful day. After the final hole, you learn that you have tied for the conference championship and must play a playoff hole. The winner of the playoff will advance to the national tournament. You may never have the opportunity to win the conference championship again. To add to the excitement, one player in the playoff is a senior, while the other is just a sophomore. The senior has had four years to win a conference championship, while the sophomore is new to the idea.

Now picture this…….the sophomore has stamped his ticket to the national tournament, because he was a part of the conference championship team. The championship team and individual earn a spot to the national tournament. The senior is one of the nicest guys on the course and has worked hard for four years. His team is not going to the national tournament, so his only chance is to win this playoff hole.

If you were the sophomore, would you go after the conference individual championship that you have rightfully put yourself in contention for? Or would you completely blow the playoff hole because you are already going to the national tournament and feel someone else has earned their chance to play in the most prestige tournament?

That is exactly what happened at Heritage Bluffs Golf Club in Channahon, Ill. Grant Whybark, the sophomore mentioned above, qualified for the NAIA national golf tournament for being a part of the University of Saint Francis (Ill.) conference championship team. However, he was forced into a playoff for the individual honors by a senior from Olivet Nazarene, Seth Doran. Whybark’s tee shot on the playoff hole sprayed 40 yards to the right and well out of bounds. He would make double-bogey, while Doran made par to earn his spot in the national tournament. The amazing this about this story is Whybark did it on purpose.

This seems like a nice story, but was Whybark assuming that day that he was the better man on the tee box? Or was he simply giving someone else a spot in the national tournament? The story has reached ESPN Radio, blogs and news outlets all over the country. Some people are happy to hear the story and praise this young man for not claiming both spots (team and individual) to the national tournament. Other people believe or not, are infuriated because of what the young man did. Some are claiming Whybark took something away from Doran for not letting him win it on his own. What do you think? Is this an act of kindness? Or is it an act of embarrassment?

If I am Doran, I would be thanking Whybark until I breathed my last breath in this world. It was the absolute last chance for Doran to realize a dream of competing at the national tournament and Whybark has already earned a spot, so why be greedy? I applaud this young man for doing something that most of us wouldn’t. Most of us would go for the gold because we have earned that opportunity. This was nothing less than a class act of kindness and sportsmanship.

This is not the first time an act like this has happened and hopefully it won’t be the last. In a 2008 softball game between Western Oregon and Central Washington, Western Oregon’s Sara Tucholsky hit a home run for the first time in her long career, at any level. However, Tucholsky injured her knee at first base and collapsed. Western Oregon’s only option was to have a pinch runner enter the game and the three-run home run would turn into a single. Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman asked the umpire if they could help their opponent around the bases. When told there was not rule against it, Holtman was joined by shortstop Liz Wallace to do something simply, “unbelievable,” as the two carried Tucholsky to touch each base. The homerun gave Western Oregon a 4-2 win and ended the season for Central Washington, but on that day…more than just Western Oregon was a winner.

In 2009, a high school basketball team was charged with a technical foul for playing a player that was not on the pregame roster. The reason the player was not on the roster was because his mother had passed away that day and the team did not expect him to play. When the opposing team was granted two free throws for the technical foul, senior and Co-captain Darius McNeal stepped to the line and intentionally missed both attempts as an act of sportsmanship.

Acts of sportsmanship are not as common as they used to be, but they do still exist. For an athlete at any level to step up and be the better person is simply amazing. In two of the three stories above, the act of sportsmanship directly impacted the outcome of the game and the losers were deemed “winners”.

UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell Sanders was quoted in 1950 saying, “Men, I’ll be honest. Winning isn’t everything. (Long pause). Men, it’s the only thing.”

You have to decide what “winning” actually is to know if it was indeed, the only thing and perhaps, everything.

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