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Posts Tagged ‘sportmanship’

My Kid is a BAD Sport

    The fourth grade Cobra team lost their fourth game I a row. 14 to 9.  It’s a great team but desperately needs some new offensive moves.

    During the game my son, Sandor , had some monstrous tackles, brutal, effective but clean. The game announcer even said his name four times. Sure, they butchered the pronunciation of his first name but they got Hampo right. Still the Cobras lost. 

    As Sandor walked off the field he pulled off his helmet then threw it on the ground. I was stunned. What the hell was that from a 72 pound linebacker? I caught his eye and nodded toward the helmet. He was wise enough to turn around and pick it up before stalking down the field.

    As he walked, coaches pounded him on the back and said things like, “great second half Sandor” and “good game man, you were in there.”

    Sandor, who has really good manners, ignored them. I caught up with my boy in the in zone and turned him around by the shoulder pads. “Hey, what’s the matter, you had an awesome game.”

    His eyes were red and tears rolled down his sweaty, dirty face. “We lost again, we lose all the time. We’re a bunch of losers.” He was almost yelling.

“And the other team was really mean, they were saying bad stuff about us and they laughed every time one of our guys got hurt. I just want to grab them by the facemask and punch them in the face. They are a bunch of retards.”

I was horrified.  My kid was melting down and acting like a total jerk. Kids who pull this kind of stuff make me crazy. And I think really bad things about their parents because I figure the punk attitude comes from them. I’ve always been so proud of my kids because they were good sports and kept things in perspective.  “Stop, right now, don’t say another  word. You’re about to get in huge trouble. Listen,  Buddy, you can’t turn on your own team. Those are your guys, those are your brothers, win or lose. You’re gonna be playing ball with them for the next eight years. And guys talk trash in football. You just have to ignore them. “

“But we always lose and it sucks”.

“You know what?  You might as well quit the team right now. You have to play football because you love the game and you love your team. If it’s all about winning we should go tell the coach you want to quit. Is that what you want?”

He shook his head and sniveled. “No, I love football.”

“You’re a black belt. You’re the kid who should be telling your buddies to hang in there, not feeling sorry for yourself.”

He nodded as though he understood then climbed into the back seat of the car. Did he hear or understand anything I said? I won’t know until next Saturday morning, after the pee-wee game.  One thing I do know, if we don’t come up with something new for the offense, Sandor’s attitude, sportsmanship  and heart will once again be put to the test.

The Day I Met Muhammad Ali…I Was Nine

    Silliest thing on the planet.  My buddy Amelia gave me a  box of Wheaties because Muhammad Ali was on the front. She knows I have had a ridiculous love affair  with Ali for more than forty years. I read the Wheaties caption for Ali…” the Ambassador of Sportsmanship”! I dropped my cereal spoon in shock.

Ali was a vain, pompous, braggadocio. “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round,” he said famously.

He was famous for insulting his  opponents relentlessly. He said to Sonny Liston, “Hey, come on you big ugly bear, I’ll turn you into a rug! ”

He called Joe Frazier  an “Uncle Tom” a “gorilla” and  said he was “so ugly he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wild Life.” — Ali was a terrible loser and an even worse winner. His genius in and out of the ring was blazing hot and unmatched in the world of sports, but when he was fighting, Muhammad Ali was no sportsman. He was a brilliant athlete and boxer, salesman, Muslim, comedian and human being but he was not the Ambassador of Sportsmanship.

Still, despite his showboating and poor manners, I do love Ali. I have loved hims since I was eight or nine years old.

Last night, while staring at the box of Wheaties and Ali’s pretty face I realized I’ve never written about the  extraordinary day I met Muhammad Ali. My poor kids have heard the story, over and over, because that’s what McDaniels do…tell stores. But I need to write it down so it’s in the books.

When I was a skinny eight or nine year old, my brother, Granger, my mom and I flew to Boston to watch my other brother, Jack, graduate from prep school.

Granger was a gorgeous, golden haired, 19 year old and he had a full leg cast because he constantly totalled my parents cars. He was on crutches and grumpy all the time.

My mom left Granger and me at the airport terminal with the luggage while she returned the rental car. It was Spring time. Back then, in the late 60’s, little girls  got very dressed up to fly in an airplane. That day, I wore a a baby blue dress, white tights and white dress shoes. I was miserable and to make things worse I had to drag the luggage as I tried to keep up with Granger on crutches.

Suddenly Granger stopped and said, “Do you know who that is? Look down there.”

I didn’t know or care. But Granger was really excited.  “Good God, Pooh Bear, that’s Cassius Clay,” then he corrected himself. “Muhammad Ali!.” He looked at me. “The heavy weight champion of the world. Come on!” He he took off like a Thoroughbred on his crutches, galloping  across  the enormous Logan Airport and I started dragging the suitcases, trying to keep up. I stopped once and tried to figure out who he was chasing but all I could see was a great big group of dressed up black people. I readjusted my grip and trudged on.

By the time I reached the group, Granger had already introduced himself.  I stood behind him in awe of the group.  I had never, in my life seen so many gigantic black people, all dressed up. Ali was surrounded by several body guards in dark suits and they all towered in front of me like Red Woods.  And their was a lady in the group. I was transfixed because I had never seen a gorgeous and fancy black lady. She seemed to shimmer in front of me, like a goddess and I was speechless until the largest of all the men stepped in front of me and said, “And who are you?”

I dropped the bags. “Diana Ross McDaniel, we’re from Hot Springs, Arkansas.” I extended my hand as I’d been trained to do. That’s when it happened.  His hand was the size of a catchers mitt and it swallowed my hand then part of my arm. I didn’t know if my hand would ever return.

“Nice to meet you Diana Ross McDaniel, I’m Muhammad Ali.” First he made his eyes get big and round then he winked at me. I had no idea who he was but I was entranced.  “Why is such a little girl  carrying all those bags?”

I started to say something about Granger and his crutches but Ali stopped me. He nodded at one of the other men then told him to take the luggage for me. At that moment I didn’t know who Ali was but I loved him cause he made those men take the damn bags off my hands. My fingers still ached.

Quickly, he scribbled his name on Granger’s cast then said, “Kids, I’ve got to go before the press finds me but you take care of your little sister, Granger.”

Then he was gone, they were all gone and we were left in his vacuum.

Before that day I had no idea what a “heavy weight champion of the world” was but I figured it out pretty quickly. That massive man made my day so much easier so he was the champion of the world.

For years after that day, I was the little white girl who defended Ali against all critics. From Vietnam to Rope-A-Dope, Ali, the “heavy wight champion of the world,” could do no wrong in my eyes. When Daddy and I listened to Howard Cosell and watched his epic battles live on Friday nights, I would tell anyone who would listen about my friend, “Muhammad Ali”.

And I still defend him today, though his  philanthropy and humanitariandedication have made him unmatched in the world of sports.  He doesn’t  need my defense. But I will always think of Muhammad Ali as my friend…was he an Ambassador of Sportsmanship? Well….I’ll reconsider that in a few years.

*****Please tell me what you think.  I’m spilling my soul here. Comment or write to hampoalnd@gmail.com