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Baker Mayfield and the Death of Sportsmanship

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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass against Kansas. Photo: USA Today

There was an interesting series of incidents involving quarterback Baker Mayfield at the recent Oklahoma v. Kansas football game that speaks to both the idea of sportsmanship and the general lack of civility I perceive to be common in our society.

At the coin flip the precedes the start of the game Mayfield offered to shake hands as is commonly done. The players for Kansas refused to do so. The game degenerated from there and eventually devolved into Mayfield shouting obscenities and making obscene gestures toward the Kansas bench. A number of people are blaming the Kansas players and coaching staff while others accuse Mayfield of being the primary villain.

I find it interesting because throughout the sporting world there is an undeniable admiration of behavior that is considered sportsmanlike. Perhaps we should call it “sportspersonlike” in this day and age but I’ll leave that argument for another day. Yet, in reality, almost everyone evinces a win at all costs mentality when it comes to their favorite teams and athletes. When allegations of cheating or rubbing up against the very edge of rules occurs, it is the fans who immediately leap to the defense of their heroes.

We pay lip-service to the ideas of being a good sport while our actions evince almost the opposite. I find that as a society we behave the same way when it comes to politics and business. We talk about doing the right thing but when offered a choice between winning the game and being a good sport, we almost always choose victory at all cost.

The people writing nasty comments about Mayfield and the Kansas team are largely the same people who express utter disdain and even hate for opponents. I find the faux outrage at Mayfield to be symptomatic of many things that are wrong with our world today. Don’t get me wrong, I think the failure to shake hands at the start of the game was rude and Mayfield’s actions were crass. I just wish people would choose to modify their own behavior rather than hurl accusations.

We are eager to blame everyone else but almost universally unwilling to look in the mirror. The modern sports world is bursting with overblown celebrations, trash talking, rudeness, and plain ugliness. This extends beyond the field and into the stands. There is little respect for opponents or the sport itself.

It’s my opinion we largely cannot turn back from this path. I’m not even certain as to the cause of this descent. Too many people? Too much money at stake? Lack of ethics and values? I’m not sure but I don’t see it changing anytime in the near future. I watch on a daily basis as we treat one another with utter contempt and then turn around and say how much we admire being a decent human being.

Mayfield apologizes and the world spins on, nothing changes.

By Tom Liberman

Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time. 

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