Story last updated at 2:53 p.m. Friday, August 9, 2002

Sportsmanship, good role models, always in season
Homer Editorial
Images of true sportsmanship in athletic competition of any level are like a breath of fresh air these days. From the congratulatory handshake between the vanquished and the victor to one athlete helping an opponent to their feet, these images are the antidote to those of the millionaire second baseman spitting in the face of an umpire or those of the crimson-faced college basketball coach tossing a chair onto the court.

Traditionally, we laud youth sports as a way to teach our kids valuable lessons. About giving the 100 percent effort, about thinking strategically, about facing adversity. And paramount in these pursuits is the code that at the end of the day you keep your head high in the face of defeat, and when you win you thank your opponent for giving their all in the contest.

Unfortunately it doesn't always work like that in the heat of competition. It's easy for young athletes, and really those of any age, to lose perspective on the bigger picture.

That is where the coaches and parents must step up.

And while for the most part they do just that, keeping their eye on the ball and helping to pick up the pieces of battered egos, too often the adults are the ones who forget the bigger picture.

Shenanigans on the baseball diamond during the American Legion Baseball District II Tournament held recently on the Kenai Peninsula offer a prime example. When one coach called out another for breaking the league's roster rules, several players were barred from playing. This set off a chain reaction of lousy behavior from all sides.

Parents in the bleachers verbally abused the kids and coaches on the field, while coaches were tossing out accusations of dirty tricks, threats of violence and inappropriate gestures.

In a word, it got ugly. But diving into the details of who allegedly did this, or who allegedly said that is pointless. The real crime is that the true purpose for anyone being at the ball field in the first place was diminished if not lost all together.

Adults, the coaches and parents alike, need to set the tone.

Kids can and should be taught to play with respect for their sport, which ultimately means rising above the petty nonsense and focusing on what really matters. We owe them that much, because these lessons will help them become athletes and real-world people who command respect in return.

With the first week of the high school football season kicking off on Saturday, it would be nice to think that our local athletes, their coaches and parents can continue to generate refreshing images of quality competition.

And as fans of that competition, let's remember to appreciate what really matters -- that an athlete or group of athletes can show real passion for their sport and that they can weather its inevitable ups and downs with a touch of class.

Because outside of our local athletes, we're stuck looking for those qualities in the ranks of our dollar-driven big-time sports, where the egos and the money often overshadow the best face of athletic competition.