In a recent interview on WGN in late March, I was asked by Middday News Anchor Steve Sanders what the difference was between a champion and what I have titled a true champion. My response centered on the idea that a true champion has a very strong focus on the process piece of becoming very good, rather than the outcome itself…like, say winning. That true champions do win…even championships; however, they are much more engaged in attempting to reach their true, full potential.
In addition, they do this all while following a much more positive code of ethical standard, something we don’t see enough from a good number of athletes (at many levels) these days. And this more positive code of ethical standards…a true champion applies them not only on the competitive field, but also off of it. They simply become a part of who they are.
How many times have we seen very good athletes, elite athletes, demonstrate the opposite. How many times do off the field antics from some of these top notch players (whether high school, college, or professional) reveal self-interested, low levels of character. And in many cases, their behavior indicates a propensity to cheat…with some conduct actually being illegal or, at the very least, unethical?
Heck, hardly a week goes by without some “sports” story of negativity being plastered all over the media. In the last decade or two, I’ve literally lost count of all the poor character-driven, irresponsible, self-absorbed, and winning-at-all-costs type behavior seen coming out of our current sports culture. The numbers are literally staggering.
This is the reason it was so heartwarming to read what Deshaun Thomas (on his own accord) wrote to Ohio State University’s newspaper editorial staff, The Lantern, in a recent letter to the editor.
Letter to the editor:
As a basketball player at Ohio State, I am both proud and honored that our university follows our sport the way they do. It is a privilege to play for Ohio State, to be a part of winning the Big Ten Tournament this year, and to have made it to the Elite Eight.
I know that athletes in other sports that do not get much press coverage are also winning championships. Just two weekends ago, Logan Stieber won his second-consecutive national championship in his weight class in wrestling, and senior Marco Canevari marked the Scarlet and Gray’s single individual champion title in fencing by securing the gold medal in men’s epee on March 22. A day later, gymnasts Sarah Miller and Aly Marohn captured the Big Ten championship on the balance beam.
Last Tuesday, The Lantern featured an article in which athletic director Gene Smith talked about how Ohio State isn’t just a football school. He talked about the success of our basketball team. It would be good to remember that in the other sports, there is a lot of success too.
All athletes at Ohio State work very hard at being the best they can be at their sport. I wish that all athletes could receive the attention that our football and basketball teams get. They all deserve to be celebrated.
Third-year in sports management
For me…that letter was a like a breath of fresh air.
In a sports culture where media-friendly (popular) sports are given more than their fair share of attention, while other lesser-known sports and competitors are lucky to be a small blip on the media radar screen, it is wonderful to see a possible up-and-coming star (Deshaun Thomas) give credit where credit is due.
Talk about clarity of vision, a global view of the world of sports…this Thomas kid’s got it going on. And not only did Deshaun take it upon himself to put other Ohio State sports in the limelight, he named names, giving his brethren equal billing for all they had accomplished.
This sharing of the spotlight by a big time college athlete just isn’t common, an anomaly you might say. There seems to be such an attitude these days (from so many at or near the top) of “what’s in it for me” or, better stated, “it’s all about me,” that it’s truly refreshing to see Deshaun make a conscious choice to go against the grain of it all.
This young man revealed a higher level of character buried within his words, one that speaks loudly about his ability to see beyond the norm; to accept, even give credit to others, accepting them and their abilities as equal to his own.
Man…I love this kid…a possible true champion in the making for sure. And God knows…we sure could use a lot more of them…no doubt about that.
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