Full Transcript of Episode 13: American Views on Sportsmanship
Lizette Beard: [00:03] Podcast team from Nashville, Tennessee. This is Keep Asking, the weekly podcast that helps you dive in a bit deeper and wider into the research, providing insight into today’s church and culture.
Lizette: [00:32] Here we are again. I’m Lizette Beard here with Scott McConnell and Casey Oliver. Today we’re talking about American views on sportsmanship. First, we’re going to cut to the chase. I need to know from you two…. In case you haven’t picked up, Scott and Casey can be by the rule kind of guys. I want to know what type of game or sports do you let yourself cheat just a little bit? When is it OK just to cheat?
Casey Oliver: [01:02] You can go first.
Scott McConnell: [01:07] I can’t necessarily think of one. I think of like in baseball where you’re allowed to cheat, you’re leading off. You’re trying to get a little edge there, leaving the base a little early, but that’s allowed. I’m trying to think of something…
[01:21] Definitely, I play basketball more than any other sport. You’re always trying to have a little more contact than you’re allowed. You’re wondering how much the referee’s going to let you get away with it in that given game.
Lizette: [01:34] Oh, because Floyd Reese, former manager of the Titans has quoted Bill Belichick. He says, “Do business as business is being done.” When you’re in the game…Yeah.
Scott: [01:49] You’re watching to see, “Are the referees going to call this close or is there going to be a lot of contact?” If there’s a lot of contact, then the other team’s going to feel it.
Lizette: [01:59] Are you pretty brutal if the ref isn’t calling anything?
Scott: [02:04] Yes, but also, if the ref isn’t calling anything, then I’m probably the one who gets a little too hotheaded, and loses their cool, which is usually what happens when you don’t have boundaries. That’s one of the nice things about boundaries is they give everybody a place to compete.
Lizette: [02:21] All right. How about…
Casey: [02:22] I’d say for me, definitely basketball was one where I would do… I would do anything that will give me a competitive advantage that I can get away with doing. It’s pretty much I would say about the…
Lizette: [02:36] Wow.
Casey: [02:37] Yeah. I’m not a nice person when I get competitive basically. I don’t think I was dirty, but I think…Like Scott was saying, you’d body-up on people, and you yank on their jersey a little as they’re going around the screen, if you could. All the things that got under people’s skins that…That was me.
Scott: [02:58] Jersey? Yank at their shorts.
Lizette: [03:00] Oh! Ah! This is a whole different side that we typically…It’s always rules, rules, rules.
[03:13] Mine is not nearly as exciting. Probably most notorious in my family for Monopoly, which is a riveting game if you’re just playing two people. My brother and I used to play, and sometimes he wouldn’t pay attention. He would get up, go somewhere because he’s nine years older than me, so maybe not as invested. I would just take fistfuls of money out of the bank. I would build up this financial empire at the cost of that sibling relationship.
Scott: [03:49] Going for the gold‑colored bills.
Lizette: [03:50] Yes. Let’s start off with the first question. I have to tell you, I don’t really like this one. At least I don’t like how most people answered, but I don’t want to spoil the fun.
[04:04] Casey, tell us about Americans and their “sports philosophy,” and I used the little hand quotes, air quotes. Tell us about that.
- Fifty‑two percent, a little over half, said it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
- Forty percent said it’s only a game. That was sort of [inaudible] if they didn’t really want to invest in the “How hard are you trying to win, even at all cost,” question. Maybe they don’t really get engaged in sports, to begin with.
- Seven percent, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
- Less than one percent, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.
[04:42] I guess, just to give some credence to what you were saying there, and it’s my own personal opinion that I think it’s easier to answer “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” when you’re not in the midst of a competition, I think.
[04:55] I think my answer changes. Once you start those feeling competitive juices flowing, it’s really easier to land somewhere else than that.
Scott: [05:03] I think all of us are sports fans, and so we all approach this question a little differently. We know, in the back of our mind, it’s only a game. We’ve actually all heard all four of these phrases at some point.
[05:15] For us, while we’re competing, we never think it’s just a game. It’s the main thing we’re working on right now. It’s how we’re being a good teammate, and we want to win otherwise we shouldn’t be playing the game.
Lizette: [05:36] I realize people always get mad when we don’t give them a complete out of no answer or none of the above. I know that we were pinning them there, but to me it’s almost this complete abandonment about if you’re saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose.” Now I realize maybe in the heart of hearts they’re saying, “I’m not willing to win at all cost,” but still…
Scott: [06:13] I think it’s one of those things where maybe it’s the parent in me coming out that I want to see my kids, my son plays sports. My daughter hasn’t, she’s into music.
Lizette: [06:29] She’s in marching band.
Scott: [06:31] Marching band, they compete.
Lizette: [06:32] We can count that as a sport.
Scott: [06:33] Yes, that’s a competition. In either realm of competition, you want them to do it the right way. In sports, we want our heroes to do it the right way. We even see it in Hall of Fame voting where this year we saw Terrell Owens get passed over in the Hall of Fame voting for the NFL.
[06:56] From what we understand the discussion among voters was, “Was he a good teammate and did he do it the right way?” What he did on the field was pretty amazing. Sometimes there is this double standard of we want our heroes to do it the right way and yet we really revere those who win.
Casey: [07:21] I think for me too on that 52 percent saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose.” It’s how you play the game. Scott talked about parenting, but just in general that idea that I think if you work hard and you’re trying your best and sometimes your best isn’t good enough.
[07:35] I think there’s still an element of pride that you can have in knowing that you did the best you could do even if you’re competing against someone who did absolutely better than you. That 40 percent, “It’s only a game.” I definitely lean much more towards the how you play the game versus it’s only a game in that I have spent a lifetime playing sports.
[07:55] I feel like I grew a lot as a person through that, and a lot of my values and opportunities to learn from success and defeat and all those things. To me I do think that there’s still a lot of value to be found in sports even if you are of that opinion that like, “Don’t win at all cost,” but I think it still has some meaningful teaching moments in it.
Scott: [08:22] A lot of times leaders in a lot of settings, ministry leaders, church leaders we tend to jump to sports analogies and military analogies fast. This is a good reminder that 9 out of 10 Americans are saying, “There’s more to life than sports and there’s more to sports than winning.”
[08:41] For those of us who love sports that’s a good a reminder that not everyone can relate to us when how good of a day we’re having today is totally going to depend on the game tonight.
Lizette: [08:57] I realize I’m really pushing what meaning as people that are just ticking this off and I’m making it rich with meaning. If you take it to the workplace, you want people who are good colleagues and do things, play the game well, but you also want deliverables.
[09:21] You need to see something done and that’s why I think even in the workplace sometimes the Terrell Owens who can really deliver can get away with a little bit more or a lot more, but then eventually you get to that place where it’s like, “It’s no longer worth the benefit of the sales, the results whatever.” There’s got to be some metric of “Are we accomplishing what we set out to do or not?”
Casey: [09:53] Which of us were you thinking of as the Terrell Owens of our workplace?
Lizette: [10:01] That is actually…
Casey: [10:03] Loaded question.
Lizette: [10:04] Yes. That would be fascinating to actually think of who we would all be and if I put any early preparation into it I would have assigned labels of who we would all be.
Scott: [10:17] Lizette, are you saying that in the workplace there’s no place for participation trophies?
Lizette: [10:25] I would love it if I could just get a participation trophy, but you seem to always want a finished report. You want things to be done. We may be airing inner office tension here, but there’s only so many times I’m allowed, air quotes, to change a PowerPoint design, because of the vibe I want it to give the client.
[10:54] When I’m waiting on that stuff from other people it’s like, come on. It’s also important to be kind and gracious in the workplace.
Casey: [11:05] Scott’s point about keeping in mind that there are varied perspectives, and some people, they really just don’t care that much about sports. I’m married to one of those people. That can be interesting sometimes.
[11:15] She’ll get upset at me occasionally, I’ll say, hey big news and she’ll say what and I’ll say, “Oh, the Giants signed Brandon Marshall.” She’s like “That’s not big news. You made me think this is something worth getting excited about.” “Well it is.”
Casey: [11:30] Just an awareness that not everyone shares that same passion for what you might have a passion for.
Scott: [11:40] The response in that question of winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Only seven percent of Americans feel that way.
- Young adults, the ones who would’ve grown up getting participation trophies, actually are the ones who are most likely to say, winning is the only thing.
- We see twice as many, 15 percent of them, those 18 to 34 indicate that that’s their mentality about sports and while that’s twice the size of the national numbers, actually three times the size of those aged 35 plus. A lot of millennials have the same attitude as my son. He says, if I ever get a participation trophy I’m throwing it out. Just that that’s…No, we’re here to win.
Lizette: [12:27] I’m going to be devil’s advocate here for a second, because I believe some pain I experienced when I was five years old is actually what triggered the participation trophy movement, because I took swimming lessons when I was five. On the final day, we were little kids, OK, we were just children and we had to do this little test.
[12:54] We only had two weeks and if you passed, you got a Blow Pop and a certificate. If you didn’t pass, you got zilch, you got nothing, OK.
Scott: [13:05] Not even a floaty?
Lizette: [13:05] No. Nothing. Zip. I went back to my kindergarten. This is the summer obviously, but I bawled. I cried, I cried, I cried, I cried. That is still a marker when people are really down on participation trophies, I’m like, I would have loved a Blow Pop that day just to say, hey, thanks for participating.
Casey: [13:33] The bigger question then is in the long term, do you feel like that experience has led to some positive outcomes in your life or negative or do you feel like constantly…?
Lizette: [13:41] I feel like there’s no good that ever…that story brings me pain every time I bring it up.
Casey: [13:49] Right now still?
Lizette: [13:50] Yep, still. If I walked into my preschool, it was a private preschool. If I walked in, I could go to the location in the living room where I was sitting when I was crying. I didn’t spend a lot of time crying at preschool. I know this comes as a surprise to you, but I wasn’t one of the really delicate tender kids. This is a deep wound.
[14:15] I do think, maybe there’s a place for, hey, you’ve learned a skill. Really, I was not a very good swimmer, I really just didn’t want to walk out empty handed. I don’t know, maybe I’ve got mixed feelings there. Casey, you want to rescue us after that really sad story?
Casey: [14:33] I’m not sure how to rescue that. I feel like I’m not a licensed therapist to be able to help you through this.
Casey: [14:39] This difficult moment from your past.
Lizette: [14:41] Casey, we’ll address that outside the podcast. Full disclosure, I don’t really like how people answer the second question either.
Lizette: [14:56] I realize that’s probably not the researchy, we’re suppose to just be neutral and sit back and observe and learn from the facts. On that one we asked Americans whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, good sportsmanship is rarely exhibited in American sports today.
- 50 percent believe that good sportsmanship is rarely exhibited in American that sports today.
I have a researchy term for that, which is hogwash.
Casey: [15:31] I guess, some of it for me as I was trying to process how would I answer those questions, or how people think about. We’re not giving one specific point of reference I’m saying. Thinking of this thing or this thing. We’re just measuring an attitude towards how these people think about sportsmanship and whether that’s happening a lot or a little.
[15:58] If I were going to try to come up with examples, I’m sure I can come up with tons and tons of examples of great sportsmanship, but is that the exception, is that the anecdotal evidence or is that the rule that people tend to be doing that?
Lizette: [16:11] You’re saying great sportsmanship, but isn’t good sportsmanship simply participating in a way that the game can carry on, you’re not interrupting. Just general politeness, but maybe not too much cheating. I realize that’s touching on something. When you look at everything from what is happening on neighborhood soccer fields to high school sports.
[16:38] Yes, there are situations where things will either blow up or be really negative, the little league coach going crazy on the side, or parents going nuts. I think to say rarely when we got all these games going on all the time. From little kids all the way up through professional sports. I think for games to get completed, you’ve got to be getting through some good sportsmanship.
Scott: [17:09] You’re bringing on a good point.
- Young adults who are 18 to 24, those college age are actually least likely to agree with that statement.
[17:19] They’re noticing sportsmanship and part of that is because some of them are probably still playing sports, and they’re probably watching more sports. Now granted they may be watching more college sports than pro sports, but they’re noticing it.
[17:32] I think a good lesson for us as leaders is to say, are we looking for the good? Are we looking for, we’ll stretch the term a little bit, are we looking for good sportsmanship in the ministry we’re leading?
[17:46] Are we looking for those players in our church setting that are showing good sportsmanship, being good teammates and really in the competition of what makes our ministry difficult? Are they being a good competitor that values, that even honors the opposition?
[18:09] I don’t think we live in a culture that honors the opposition very much. Even in the media, we tend to highlight the bad sportsmanship. That makes the highlight reel a lot faster than the great assist. In soccer, in basketball, there are just as many assists as there’s ever been. That’s good sportsmanship, letting the teammate get the score.
Lizette: [18:39] No, go ahead.
Casey: [18:39] I was just going to say, to Lizette’s point as well, to what Scott was saying. I do think that bad sportsmanship is easier to identify. Somebody shaking hands after a game isn’t something that you take note of, but somebody screaming at a referee or getting into a physical altercation sticks in your mind. I think that’s part of it, too, is that the more memorable ones are bad sportsmanship sometimes.
Lizette: [19:05] Maybe this is just what we can see in ministry and church settings. Sometimes, I think we overvalue the attitude or the words affirmation, congeniality over excellence in execution, or we push those to the side, make them competing with one another because, especially in the workplace, in ministry, really good execution, without always being rah, rah, rah…
[19:42] The Sunday School teacher who is always prepared. It may be the fourth grade. They’ve been teaching fourth grade Sunday School for 30 years, and they are on it. They teach every class, but they’re not at every other function.
[19:58] That was kind of random and out of nowhere, but I think excellence in fulfilling your role on the team should be acknowledged as this is helping the body of Christ, or excellence in the workplace. The person who may not have the warmest disposition, but is doing things really well or planning ahead.
[20:23] I’ll throw Jonathan Howe under the bus, one of our…He has a good attitude. I didn’t mean to make that connection. He works here at LifeWay. I remember the first time I had an official meeting with him. We’d only had kind of a banter, funny interaction even though we were on the same team.
[20:44] The first I had a meeting with him, he was amazingly prepared and knowledgeable about the skill set he was coming with. I remember thinking, “Wow, he is really competent.” That elevated…He’d always had a great attitude, but his competence and his excellence in preparing for that meeting, to me, made him a great team member. It showed great sportsmanship, respecting our time.
[21:12] I can’t believe I just affirmed Jonathan Howe. We may have to cut that.
Anything else on this before we wrap up, guys? OK.
[21:24] Thanks everyone, for listening. If you have any questions, please tweet to us at @smcconn, @StatsGuyCasey, and @LizetteBeard, or @lifewayresearch. Write reviews on iTunes and be sure to tell your friends and family. Get the word out, far and wide about the research podcast.
[21:46] Join us next time for another edition of Keep Asking. Keep asking, learn more, do better.
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