What Became of Sportsmanship?
Leighton Housh, the executive sports editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune, in a speech last week to a meeting of sportswriters in Austin, Texas had some sharp things to say about sports fans, coaches—and sportswriters:
"Currently the United States is caught in a period of critical self-appraisal. Maybe the Russians and their moon rockets brought it on. I wouldn't know, but I do know that sports have not escaped and ought not to escape.
"We have got to have more people who know right from wrong, who are not afraid to dig out the facts in unsavory cases and write the story.
"Such people will not be popular but they will be respected. Some coaches and managers, and many of the more rabid fans, will criticize them bitterly. But they will be professional newspapermen—not volunteer tub-thumpers—doing a professional job of seeking out and writing the truth as they see it.
"Who knows? Maybe eventually those almost abandoned words such as 'honor' and 'sportsmanship' will acquire once more some meaning and appear now and then in print with the unceasing stream of statistics and ratings that now pass for news.
"And who is responsible for the sad fact that the phrase 'building character' almost always draws a snicker and is taken to mean that the coach has had an unsuccessful season?
"And isn't it a sign of the times that every sports editor finds one of his most difficult year-end jobs is to remember a single instance of sportsmanship worthy of nomination for the Swede Nelson Sportsmanship Award?
"Certainly you'd have to bypass the man from Purdue who spied on Iowa's practice from a tree; the zealous USC tackle who drew Pete Elliott's wrath for slugging but who was made Lineman of the Week by the Football Writers of the area; or any of the coaches who made news in 1959 by using game films to second-guess officials.
" Red Blaik, one of the most articulate defenders of college football, calls the game the nearest thing to actual warfare. I think there is, and ought to be, a difference.