Friday, May 7, 2010


:conduct (as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport

Here's the background for those of you who don't know the story...

Two college golfers named Grant Whybark and Seth Doran were playing a playoff hole to decide who would take the last spot in the NAIA national finals. Whybark, a sophomore, was already landed a spot at nationals because his team had won the tournament. Doran, a senior was playing for his way in. If Whybark wins, he occupies two spots at nationals. If Doran wins both players go to nationals. No one, outside of the two in the play off had an opportunity to occupy the spot.

Whybark knew Doran. "I've known Seth for the past couple of years," Whybark said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "He's earned my respect on the golf course and off of it." Whybark decided to shank his tee shot approx. 40 yards out of bounds. And in essence he handed the playoff hole to Doran. Doran went on to win the playoff and now both players will face each other at nationals.

Quite honestly I have very mixed feelings about this situation.

Golf is very different from other sports. This would never happen in football or basketball; there really is no way to compare it. Whybark said he spoke with his teammates before he decided to give away the hole, and the team supported his decision. Whybark, and his team suffered nothing by letting Doran move on. But what about the idea of letting a person through. Does it show more respect to Doran as a competitor to play him hard and have him earn his spot instead of giving it to him? I say yes. But at the same time, I think we all have off days. And if two people have been repeatedly playing each other, and know that they both are the best and they want to face each other for the ultimate prize, I suppose I can't really fault the young man for wanting his competitor to live to fight another day and get a real competition at nationals.

While I refuse to consider these men children, they are still young men, and in light of current sports atmospheres of big egos and a lot of questionable character and moral choices, I find it difficult to be angry at Whybark for throwing the hole. I remember back to a recent story from Wisconsin High School Basketball. Brief background. A mother of one of the players lost her battle with cancer the day of the game. The team grieved but went to play without the teammate. Midway through the game the young man showed up requesting to play. If the young man was to enter the game, they would be penalized with a technical foul and the opposing team would get to shoot two solo free throws. The opposing team missed each free throw by 3 feet. Clearly on purpose. Because in their minds it was the right thing to do.

I think back to Brett Favre diving so that Strahan could get the sack record. While I despised it at the time, there is a part of me that can see a great player wanting another great player to achieve their goal and wanting to help them do that. While it might not be the best example of definition of sportsmanship listed above, I can not find it within myself to fight against these acts.

I wish I knew how Doran felt about the situation. What was his reaction after seeing the tee shot? Did he feel honored or played down to? This man will probably not go on to a pro career and nationals might end up being the highlight of his sports career. Clearly he is a true athlete and competitor, otherwise he wouldn't have been in the playoff.

While perhaps the means were not the best, the intentions were, and I will honor anyone who finds respect in their competition and wants to best for them, wants to compete against the best at the highest level. If that is what Whybark did, then I applaud him. I applaud him for being a decent human being and hope that the nationals competition is quality and played with sportsmanship. However his act does not honor the true definition of sportsmanship.

Like I said, I'm torn. I like it and dislike it. And I'm completely okay with riding the fence on this one. It might not have been the true meaning of competition, but I have a feeling that nationals will be, and that both guys will enjoy nationals.

EDIT** I thought of this while driving home. In a way Doran did earn his spot at nationals. If he was a jerk and not a respectable gifted golfer, I doubt anyone would have shanked a tee shot for him. He earned it both on and off the course.

And at the same time I can't love it. You either win or lose, to do anything else isn't sportsmanship.

I'm still torn.

1 comment:

  1. hmmm. I would do it for one of my buddies. I wouldnt do it for Tiger Woods though... so, ya know, too bad for him!