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A Lesson From The Master

Published December 28, 1998, in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Then Myrnie asked, tell us of sportsmanship, Master. And he said:

"Sportsmanship is when girls and boys grow into women and men in the pursuit of sports, and when the competition shifts focus from the competitor outside to the opponent within, seeking to cleanse the self in the sweat of honest effort and redeem it in the blood of chivalry."

"In sportsmanship, every runner acknowledges the other runners and their rights to a fair race, before asserting a blind desire for victory at any cost. For the price of victory is high and the glory of success is hollow, if these are achieved at the expense of friendships."

"For every race we run is like creating a piece of art by mixing the beauty in our footsteps with the poetry in our fellow racers, painted with faith and love on the canvas of our trails of trials."

"Do not let the pursuit of victory obscure the common good in your running, for running shall transcend nations and ages as a prayer of thankfulness for health and bounty, and as a covenant that goodness rewards her seekers, just as faithfulness crowns believers."

"The runner who rejoices in an opponent's victory shows pride and courage beyond selfishness, while the runner who curses a fellow racer is a coward unworthy of the fulfillment of our noble endeavors. For the swift of foot is a gift of the Creator manifested among us."

"For in life, there are actions and deeds nobler than glory and superior to fame. It is evil to place fame ahead of sportsmanship, and lies ahead of truth in fear of people's wrath. Thus, battling this evil brings good to our lives and freedom from our chains."

When Myrnie asked about achieving sportsmanship, the Master said:

"Just like the body exceeds the sum of its parts, so does sportsmanship in embracing its members. In every race and on every field, it takes more than the runners to have a race. For in every race there are parents, coaches and officials, and each bears the burden of sportsman conduct."

"Sportsmanship begins at home, polishing an athlete's shell into a silky gentleness, hiding the inner toughness that separates the victor from the vanquished on race day. Yet it is the gentleness of the silky shell that shines at the end of the battle, when the sweat of winners and finishers mixes in a celebration of sportsmanship."

"The parents' role in polishing our children's manners stands alone as a crucial element in the partnership of sports, for parents teach by example, and children are nothing more than the reflections of our lives onto the calm or turbulent seas of their childhood."

"The coaches carry the role of the parents onto the trails and fields, where many children mistake their independence from home as a freedom to forego gentleness and to abuse goodness. Just like the parents, coaches lead by model, inspiring their charges to self-denial for the common good."

"The burden of enforcement finally rests on race officials. Their conduct must inspire respect and confidence, for their firmness establishes high expectations, while their permissiveness opens ajar the doors for abuse and insolence."

"Just as the effort of running the race is the athlete's hour of judgement, so is the challenge of sportsman conduct. No matter how well parents teach through actions and coaches lead by example, and regardless how far officials rule with fairness and firmness, yet the burden of maturity and the strength to resist temptation rest with the runners who shape the image of running."

"For running leaves no room for hiding or blame, and victory comes only from honest effort and hard work. The victory that eludes the whiner and the glory that denies the cheater, these will crown the honest runner, for every racer who fights the inner battle and finishes the race is a witness to the spirit of sportsmanship."

Then the Master took leave of his people, and ran in communion with nature.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at

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