The great ones, past and present, are remembered for their humility as well as their prowess.
Jack Nicklaus was a classic example. Roger Federer seems a nice guy as well as an eternal winner.
In soccer I’ve heard very few bad words about Bobby Charlton, or Ally McCoist.
Men who always had a smile and a handshake for their opponents, win or lose.
In our sport too, we have the good winners who can also be good losers. It isn’t that difficult.
Watch the very best in the world. Tai Woffinden and Greg Hancock have won six of the last eight World Titles between them, yet will always recognise their opposition at the end of a race.
They either shake hands, swap a high-five or just turn and wave – but they always give the guy who has just beaten them, or they have bested, due acknowledgement.
Win or lose, Tai and Greg clearly admit we can’t have a winner without a loser, too. It takes two to tango, it takes two to provide an entertaining speedway race.
At Berwick on Saturday night, I watched a good example of sportsmanship.
This was in Heat 8, when Kevin Doolan – who was having a fine night, and must have thought, after he made the start and hit the front going down the back straight he was heading for another three points – found James Sarjeant too hot to handle coming off the fourth turn.
Try as he might, Kev couldn’t then overhaul wee Sarj again, hard as he chased him for the remaining three laps – and he certainly tried!
On the fifth lap, James was understandably cock-a-hoop, waving to his massed red-and-white army of fans on the back straight, but our skipper – who was probably cursing the wee bugger under his breath – finally caught up with him and patted Sarj on the back and shook his hand in warm congratulation. Nice one, Kev!
Now it isn’t that difficult to be sporting when you win.
Easy to stand on the top step of a podium and cheerfully spray the cheap fizz over the next guy. Easy to look around after another win and flap a hand at the men you’ve beaten.
But it would be just as easy to acknowledge defeat, and congratulate a rider who’s beaten you.
Especially if that rider maybe wasn’t expected to get in your way as you intended to storm off for yet another victory.
There are two kinds of sportsmanship – the good kind, and the other…….
After Heat 8 on Saturday, I saw Kevin showing us the good, and James Sarjeant (who I thought rode much better on the night than his final tally of points suggests) fully deserving, and probably fully appreciating, the handshake.
Nice to see.
Nice to know we have a captain who can show the world how a good sportsman should behave.
Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He is always happy to hear from interesting people at email@example.com