A lot has happened the past few days in our sports world. Here in the Bay Area, the biggest is the 49ers going to the Super Bowl.
I’m a 49ers fan, but I’m thinking these next two weeks are going to be way too much, with all the sports media outlets going All-49ers All the Time.
One good thing that may happen when all is said and done is that mixed in with “Hail to the Victors” may be a good helping of respect and honor for the Defeated.
We’ll hear way more than we might wish the next several days about this battle of brothers, coach Jim Harbaugh leading the 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens coached by his older brother, John. We can only hope fans from both teams will take a cue from Jim and John’s parents, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh.
They can be happy when Jim’s 49ers prevail but also consoling to John for the valor his Ravens will have shown in defeat. … Or (swallow, swallow) vice versa.
There is also a good chance there may be a bit more sportsmanship in this Super Bowl because of this sibling rivalry. Who wants to tarnish such a victory with a cheap shot that calls into question the integrity of a hard-earned championship?
No, don’t expect either team’s players suddenly to turn into choir boys. But expect a hard but clean game. The 49ers’ defensive players are known for conducting a school of hard knocks ... and for being sure tacklers. The Ravens I’ve seen only a couple of games. They appear to be as tough as nails and will hammer you like a nail, but they also appear to stay generally within the plumb line of the rules.
Even the Ravens’ Ray Lewis, playing in his last game, I presume would want to go out with a victory, yes, but also one won with class.
I’m an old guy, and through most of my childhood, the famous saying most of the adults in my life used to sum up the ideal for athletic competition was a shortened version of a famous quotation of the sportswriter Grantland Rice. To wit, they usually said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
The full verse that Rice wrote in a poem: “For When the One Great Scorer comes/To mark against your name
He writes – not that you won or lost – /But how you played the Game.”
But that sentiment went out with two-bit gasoline following the exploding popularity of pro football on television and the rise to legendary status with the Green Bay Packers of coach Vince Lombardi, who once said: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Lombardi made many other inspirational quotations, including this following one that addressed the effort and the will required to win: “Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all-the-time thing.”
However, among those fans (and maybe coaches) the more simplistic and easier to remember quotation of Lombardi’s became the catch phrase for all athletic endeavor.
But who knows? Maybe this Super Bowl will mark a turning point back toward a bygone era where “how you played the game” is once again put on pedestal.
In any case, this old sportswriter still loves these words from the song “I Love” by Tom T. Hall that topped the country charts 40 years ago: “I love winners when they cry, losers when they try.”
And may all participants in Super Bowl XLVII play it with honor and keep it in the spirit of brotherly love.