Genuine class

Peter King notes a sporting gesture by an NFL player:

Super Bowl hero David Tyree has a faith-based autobiography, More Than Just a Catch (Strang Book Group), coming out this September. One of the two forewords is by Rodney Harrison, the New England safety who will be inextricably linked forever with Tyree. (Eli Manning wrote the other.) Harrison, of course, played great defense on Tyree and was as close as you can be to separating a receiver from the ball when Tyree made the greatest catch — “the greatest play,” NFL Films poohbah Steve Sabol says — in Super Bowl history.

There are few things I appreciate more than athletic competitors who do their absolute best to beat the hell out of their opponent, and then leave any sense of enmity or opposition on the field. I was fortunate to have encountered a series of great rivals during my sprinting days – Bill of Mahtomedi, Simmy of Brooklyn Park, Johnny and Phil of Minneapolis North – that I’ve never forgotten. Sometimes I beat them, sometimes they beat me, but I know that if I ever ran into any of them again, we’d greet each other with a smile, a handshake, and that half-embrace that you reserve for an opponent who merits your respect.

It’s not necessary to hate those against whom you compete. In six years spent in the dojo, I’ve bloodied my friends’ faces and I’ve been knocked down and knocked out by them in return. But, there is a sporting code that must be maintained, and those who don’t abide by that code deserve all the contempt that will be directed at them by those who do. I don’t think it’s an accident that the uglier sort of bloggers on the Internet tend to people who never played competitive sports. The concept of friendly, or even civil, conflict simply seems to be outside their frame of reference.