Sportsmanship wins every time

This is not the post I intended to make today. The one I was going to make today I’ll get to eventually, but instead I’m reposting this one from 210Sports that I made this afternoon. The reason I’m reposting it here was a friend suggested my new blog wouldn’t get the message of this posting, that sportsmanship wins every time, out to enough people. It’s only tangentially about sports. It’s really about kindness from the most unexpected places.

We unfortunately live in a world where far too often people thrive on putting others down, or take joy from the pain of others. A chance encounter Saturday has really given me a lot to think about, and I hope that you can spend a few minutes reading this and that it will give you all something to think about too.

* * * * * * * * *

I think it’s a safe bet that most reading this will know that I cover the Worcester Sharks over on a blog called Sharkspage. My original goal here on 210Sports was to keep the two absolutely separate. I intended to have all the WorSharks stuff over there and everything else sports would be here. When you figure there’s an almost endless amount of sports going on to talk about, I didn’t think it would be that hard to keep the two entirely separate entities. But something happened on Saturday that has made me decide to violate my own rule less than a month into my blog here.

For those that don’t know some of the particulars, we’ll backtrack just a bit. While it was fairly well known in these parts that San Jose was going to move the Worcester Sharks out to the west coast at some point, over the last couple months it’s became pretty clear it would be sooner as opposed to later, and last Thursday and Friday word began to circulate through legitimate news outlets that this would indeed be the final season for the WorSharks.

Despite knowing the news was coming it was still a shock for some, but those of us that went through this once before when the St. Louis Blues moved the Worcester IceCats away ten years ago are making sure “the next generation”, as friend Rich calls them, knows that despite the team leaving it doesn’t mean friendships end. In fact, if evidence from last time is any indication those friendships get stronger. But I digress a bit.

On Saturday the Booster Club had a bus trip to Albany set up, and despite the heavily falling snow it was still a pretty good turnout. With it being a long drive the bus made a scheduled stop at a rest area off the Mass Pike in Lee, Massachusetts. While everyone was stretching their legs and grabbing a quick snack a couple of folks, seeing we were wearing WorSharks jerseys, came over to us to talk about us losing our team. They were from Adirondack, another AHL city that’s going to see their team leave heading out to the west coast. It was a nice conversation, talking about the potential for other lower level teams moving into the abandoned markets.

We got to Albany a little later than we were hoping to because of the snow, so into the Times Union Center most of us went. As we walked around the concourse a few folks stopped me and asked about the trip from Worcester (it was snowing in Albany too from the same storm), and briefly touched on our losing the team. It was the kind of friendly conversation that you’d see in many AHL arenas. After finding our seats Rich and I quickly decided there wasn’t enough leg room so we moved to a different location where we could spread out a little.

The WorSharks ended up winning the game in overtime, sending the home team fans out maybe not in the best of moods. In those situations it’s usually best to keep quiet and just go about your business hoping no drunken opposing fans start trouble. A few of us gathered to keep watch on some of our group that have been known to get into altercations, but nothing like that came even close to happening. After the crowd thinned out I headed down the stairs toward the rest rooms.

A few minutes later as I was at the bottom of the stairs waiting for my wife to come out of the ladies room I noticed a man and a young boy, I’m guessing age seven or so, looking over in my direction. Within a few seconds they walked over to me and the boy said, “That’s a cool jersey”. I was wearing the WorSharks teal 5th anniversary jersey, and said thanks and told him what it was and who the player was (#35, goaltender Harri Sateri, who isn’t on the team anymore). I figured that was going to be the end of the conversation when he said something that surprised me. “I don’t like it when the Devils lose, but my dad says you’re going to lose your team next year so it’s okay that you won today. That way maybe you won’t be sad”.

I was stunned to silence.

What do you say to something like that? I just stood there staring at the kid, not believing what I had just heard. I mumbled something like “thanks, I appreciate it”. Without missing a beat he quickly added “You know, you could always move to Albany and root for the Devils”. I laughed at that, and then he stuck his hand out. I shook it, and then his dad’s who added “Good luck, have a safe trip” as they walked out the door. I walked back up the stairs half in a daze, totally forgetting I was waiting for my wife.

I told those gathered at the top of the stairs about what happened and everyone thought it was awesome and got a chuckle out of it. But all through the bus ride home I was thinking there was a bigger picture here. Some seven year old kid convinced his dad to walk over to a complete stranger–and those that know me know I’m not exactly the friendliest looking fellow–so he could say he was sorry I was losing my team. I’m thinking it may have been bothering him from the moment his dad told him, and the offer to come to Albany and root for his team was his solution.

The Albany Devils may have lost the game, but that young man earned a victory that I hope he carries with him forever: that with good sportsmanship in the end you always win.

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