BY SAMANTHA ELLIOTT, Editor in Chief
Athletes can be compared to politicians in the sense that they are always in the spotlight, but seem to forget that people watch their every single move, looking for a chance to pounce on even the tiniest mistake.
When athletes are in the spotlight for positive actions it’s fantastic. No one can deny that there are immense amounts of pressure on an athlete to perform well and keep their cool. It’s so impressive when they stay calm and often sickening when they don’t.
Example one: Apolo Ohno, Olympic speedskater for the United States. One of the best speed skaters in the world and easily one of my favorite athletes. At the last Olympics, Ohno was disqualified during the 500M short track speedskating race. In last place on the final turn, he tried to pass Canadian Francois-Louis Tremblay on the inside. His leg appeared to hit the Canadian and he went down, sliding into the wall. Sunh Si of South Korea also went down in the mess, although it looked more like he lost his balance.
Officials debated for some time while Ohno simply skated around the ice awaiting his fate. When the judges finally disqualified him, he simply shrugged and smiled about the situation. He could have yelled or found something to throw in frustration but he kept his cool. Apolo Ohno–classy.
Example two: Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle on the Detroit Lions. Suh has recently been handed a two game suspension for his actions in a Thanksgiving match up against the Green Bay Packers. During the game, Suh appeared to lose his temper after a tackle and stomp on the arm of Evan Dietrich-Smith as well as slam his head into the ground a few times. It’s not the first time Suh has found himself in trouble this year, nor will it probably be the last. He’s had nine personal fouls since 2010 as well as being fined three times for roughing quarterbacks and once for unsportsmanlike conduct. Acts like slamming someone’s head into the ground when you know hundreds of thousands of people are watching you are far from okay in anyone’s book. Ndamukong Suh–classless.
Example three: Armando Galarraga, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. June 3, 2010 found fans and players in attendance at Comerica Park holding their breath in the ninth inning. Detroit was up 3-0 against Cleveland and with two outs in the top of the ninth, Galarraga had a perfect game. Indians shortstop Jason Donald stepped up to the plate as the Detroit dugout prepared to storm the field after what was sure to be the final out. Donald grounded just outside of first base. First basemen Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball as Galarraga dashed to cover first and secure the out. The stadium watched as Galarraga got the ball in his glove and stepped on the bag before Donald made it there safely. Standing just behind first base, umpire Jim Joyce made the call of “safe.” While the stadium exploded in an uproar and fans watching at home screamed at their televisions, Galarraga simply looked at Jim Joyce with an almost amused expression as if to ask, “really?”
Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland said after the game, “It’s the human element; we all make mistakes and it was an innocent mistake.” Galarraga agreed, stating that while he knew the call should have been an out, it was simply a mistake and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Armando Galarraga–classy.
Example four: The marching band for Ohio State University. On November 26, 2011, I found myself standing sideline at ‘The Game’ of the year, cheering along as the Wolverines took the lead over the Buckeyes and were minutes away from their first victory over Ohio State in seven seasons. During a review of a play the stadium was filled with the sounds of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” As the crowd sang along and enjoyed pre-celebratory festivities, the Ohio State Marching band started playing their school anthem, loudly, as if trying to drown out the entire Big House. Sorry Ohio State, but over a hundred of you are clearly not going to drown out over one hundred and fourteen thousand Michigan fans. There’s no denying that Ohio State has had a good football program the past several years, but Michigan won this year and had the right to celebrate without Ohio trying to ruin it. Ohio State marching band–Classless.
This weekend I had the displeasure to experience yet another act of unclassy athletes, this time right on our own campus. The Wolves hockey team participated in a home and home against Eastern Michigan University, a long time rival. The Wolves prevailed 5-3 over the Eagles on Friday night before coming back to Dearborn on Saturday night. The first period went pretty smoothly, but fights broke out early in the second. A one-on-one fight found both players ejected from the game. Small spats continued until a full out brawl erupted in the third. A player from each side got into it deep in Eagle territory when the Eastern goalie decided to jump in and punch the Dearborn player.
The situation snowballed into several fights scattered across the ice. It took quite some time for everyone to be broken apart and the penalties and disqualifications to be handed out. Tempers were flaring on either bench with typical hockey comments being traded between players. However, hearing the comments from Eastern’s coach slightly baffled me. In my experience, coaches have typically stayed out of rivalries, letting the bickering go on between the players. The words coming out of the Eastern coach’s mouth definitely proved otherwise.
What amazed me the most was when Eastern’s back up goaltender took it upon himself to throw garbage that was on the bench at The Michigan Journal’s photographer. Someone who was professionally doing his job and taking pictures of the game, and they threw garbage at him. I have to say that this was a perfect example of unsportsmanlike conduct. Real classy Eastern, real classy.
Anyone in the public spotlight can take instances like these as a learning situation. Sportsmanlike conduct is something that seems to have gone extinct in recent years, but those who do have class represent their sport amazingly well. Athletes just need to remember that people are watching them, fans both young and old. Set an example and make sure you keep those fans, or else you’re going to be in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons.