Sport and sportsmanship, encompassing whole worlds of activity and attitude, are both hard to define.
Before the publication of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Assistant Managing Editor Richard Johnston gave prospective writers one good definition of sport. "We define the field," he wrote, "as including all sporting competition, whether between human beings or between human beings and natural forces. Thus baseball obviously is a sport, but so is mountain climbing, cave crawling, hiking and—of course—hunting and fishing."
But sport, with all its peripheral implications and spiritual values, includes more than competition. Some of the rest of its meaning, I think, comes clear in another definition—on page 64 of this issue.
As for sportsmanship, it is, quite simply, born and bred of sport. Two weeks ago our four Sportsmen of the Year—Bannister, Podres, Morrow and Musial—gathered in one place for the first time to receive their awards, replicas of a 6th century B.C. Greek amphora. In our December 23 issue Paul O'Neil, introducing this year's winner, Stan Musial, wrote: "In the U.S. the ideals of sportsmanship as well as those of competence are increasingly those of the professional."
In that issue also it was said of each of these sportsmen: "His performance was such that his fellow men could not fail to recognize it as the revelation of pure excellence."
In this country we are perhaps wary of the professional athlete. Of our four sportsmen two are professionals, two are not. But all four have shown that the standards by which they play—and work—are not only those of the professional but, more importantly, those of excellence itself.
In sport, in fact, the only final standard is excellence. If a professional sets it, it is neither more nor less an ideal to be followed: it is the ideal. And always with the desire, and design, that tomorrow will bring, if possible, greater excellence than today.
Whatever sport and sportsmanship are specifically, they are good to live with. Now, when the great issue is the survival of our civilization, they may occasionally seem to be time-consuming or even frivolous luxuries.
But not really. For sport and sportsmanship call upon individuals to make a habit of the striving for excellence—a habit that has an important place in any struggle, not only for survival, but for any kind of progress.