If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

I’m sure you know the other half of this saying, “don’t say anything at all”.  This would have been good advice for Steve Coburn, co-owner of Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, California Chrome.

Last year after the New England Patriots lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC playoffs, I reminded you to be a good sport when I criticized Patriot coach, Bill Bilichick for refusing to be interviewed after the game. I stand by my belief that a professional football coach earning over 7 million dollars should speak to the press after a loss, but I think we’d all be better off if Steve Coburn had simply demonstrated poor sportsmanship by giving the press the silent treatment.

Yes, it’s difficult to have cameras watching your reaction throughout the much anticipated third leg of the Triple Crown. And no one wants a microphone  pushed in his face  with someone asking for your reaction to the result only minutes after experiencing a tremendously disappointing race. However, as the owner of a horse attempting to win the big race, the media attention came as no surprise.

After all, for five weeks, Steve Coburn has been the media darling conducting interviews and telling the unlikely story of California Chrome’s success. Five weeks of smiles, laughs, stories relishing every minute of the limelight. Then in less than three minutes everything changed. No first place finish, no Triple Crown winner, no smile, no laughter, instead a rant.

Wouldn’t it have made sense to prepare for the possibility of a loss by practicing a generic statement like, “I’m disappointed that California Chrome won’t be joining the exclusive club of Triple Crown winners, but I’m very proud of this horse as well as the jockey, trainer, and all who were a part of his success. And I’d like to congratulate Tonalist on a job well done.” Not that tough!


Instead Coburn resorts to name calling, accusations of cheating, and worst of all comparing Tonalist’s win to an able bodied man taking on a child in a wheel chair in a game of basketball. What’s with this guy? At least we all now know the real reason the partnership which owns California Chrome is named DAP Racing for Dumb-ass Partners. Steve Coburn has proven he is a real Dumb-ass.

The good news, not everyone associated with California Chrome is a Dumb-ass. In fact, Art Sherman, the horse’s trainer talked about the luck involved in horse racing and the expectation that all of the horses and jockeys in the race are there to win. He didn’t call the competition cheaters. He didn’t make excuses. Art Sherman’s still enjoying the thrill of training a horse that won not only the Kentucky Derby, but the Preakness Stakes as he prepares to get back to work this week.

Be a good sport, and whatever you do, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.



Be a Good Sport

This weekend I witnessed an example of poor sportsmanship after the AFC Championship game when the coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Bilichick refused to be interviewed after the game. Having lost many games, I know defeat doesn’t come easy, but how hard is it to speak to a reporter about the game. He didn’t even need to come up with anything new. This interview takes place after every game in the playoffs. The script goes something like this:

We’re very disappointed. This is a great team with terrific players who were well prepared. Unfortunately, we weren’t the best team on the field today. Of course, turnovers hurt us, but you can’t take anything away from our opponents. Hats off to this year’s AFC champs. We wish them well in the Super Bowl.

How hard was that? I’ve heard enough of these interviews that I could write the script in about a minute. Sure, he may have been asked about the why the offense didn’t play up to expectations or what was the key to the Ravens’ win; but those aren’t tough questions either. All the reporter and fans want is to see the coach of the losing team say their opponent played great and they deserved the win – a display of good sportsmanship.

You’d think as the highest paid coach in professional sports, earning an annual salary of $7.5 million per year, he could face the media and congratulate his opponents publicly.

On the other hand, a YouTube video I watched earlier Sunday exemplified good sportsmanship. According to an article posted on Runner’s World Running Times, Abel Mutai had a comfortable lead heading for the finish line in a recent race when he misjudged the finish line and started walking 10 meters early. Ivan Fernandez Anaya recognized the leader’s mistake and stayed behind Mutai gesturing for him to continue and cross the finish line allowing Matui to claim the victory.

In the article, Anaya was quoted:

“I didn’t deserve to win it. I also think that I have earned more of a name having done what I did than if I had won. And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.”

I bet Anaya would have known what to say if he was coaching the losing team in a big game, even without a big salary.

I hope you’ll be a good sport in both winning and losing. Be modest. Praise your opponent. Winning is wonderful, but not if you brag and rub your accomplishments in the face of others. And while losing is not fun, being gracious can make the loser come out on top.

Did you know there is a National Sportsmanship Day? This year it will be recognized on March 5th. I bet Bill Belichick won’t be in attendance.

Be a good sport.