Shaking the other player's hands at the end of the game, being nice to the other team, screaming three hoorays; demonstrations of sportsmanship. No. Sportsmanship goes far beyond the superficial "niceties", thereby a trait that should be instilled in both the players and spectators as a form of dignity.
What's wrong with cheering for the Clippers when they miss a jump shot? What's wrong with cheering for Djokovic when his shot bashes into the net? We all have our favorite teams, what's wrong with that? The truth is, there are many things wrong with rooting for the opponent and his failure, rather than rewarding cheers for when your team player shoots a great basket, scores a phenomenal touchdown or even an elegant crossbar goal.
However, this does not mean that you must always root for both teams, or as I do, for the underdog. Instead, sportsmanship is an important embodiment of respect to any sport and the players, coaches, and referees. The following few methods and examples as to why true sportsmanship from both spectator and athlete showcases respect and class.
Paramount to good sportsmanship, the concept is very easily understood, however putting this into play can be very difficult. Treat others as you want to be treated is the golden rule, and adding another dimension of treating others as they want to be treated becomes platinum. In sports, this can extend to prioritizing the team instead of yourself; giving up your shot at scoring by passing to a teammate, something along those lines. Additionally, respecting teammates by encouragement, support and picking them up when they fail will not only build their confidence, and make them feel safer, but it will also render you more respect within that team.
Respecting the game, is a whole other type of respect, and learning and understanding the rules, though overlooked, is important. As spectator, calling out fouls and being unaware of what actually happened is nothing but snobbish especially if you don't understand the game. Another form of disrespect comes in the lack of hustle, that leads to giving up especially under losing circumstances, and even in the face of pressure.
2. Class: Grace and Maturity
It is heart wrenching to play the game of your life, and put everything into something, only for it to not be enough and still have to say "good job" and shake hands with the opponent. But it proves maturity when you can keep "losing" in perspective. By this sense, the most important phrase (applicable to anything) is that if it won't matter in 5 years, don't spend more than 5 minutes stressing about it. This does not dismiss the act of carefully thinking about certain things, but in the grand scheme of your life how much will it matter if you slap their hand, instead of shaking it with grace, and somewhat appreciating their victory. Therefore, it is important to accept responsibility for a loss, and not blame it on anyone else- the referee being the most common victim.
Additionally, a similar indication of grace is acknowledging the winner- which, though difficult, shows discipline and a high degree of emotional intelligence. On the other hand, winning with humility is the outcome of being respectful in the sense that it should be fun, for exercise rather than solely about being first or pursuing an individual goal. Therefore, we should learn to win and lose whilst maintaining perspective. At the same time that you win, someone else lost and keeping how they feel in mind shows grace. Striking the balance between celebrating your achievements and dejecting your opponent is difficult.
Team can mean anything, beyond sports, and in fact a lot of the goals of coaches, soccer- moms and dads and so on revolve around developing the athletes and even spectators into productive, balanced and caring people. The sports teams and individual players can serve as analogies for other life situations such as the workplace, family and even friends. And just like sports, life is tough wherein we must learn to deal with both success and failure rather than letting either debilitate us. Thomas Edison after failing to create a successful light build 9000 times said, "Why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work." Keeping positive spirits, and persevering can inspire motivation, result in dignity, grace and respect- ultimately sportsmanship and its' importance.