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Do we want a society of mortal enemies, or just opponents?

To the editor,
Disrespecting one's opponent has become a part of our culture. It can be observed in amateur athletics and in professional sports. A player struts about after he has made a tackle, or a player does some form of dance in the end zone after a touchdown. In basketball, the ultimate "dis" (disrespect) is demonstrated when a player slams the ball into the basket over the head of his opponent. Words of taunting and further disrespect are heard and observed continually.
It wasn't always that way. There was a day when players gave their all to defeat their opponent but they didn't feel the need to try and heap disrespect upon him. That all changed when, in 1965, New York Football Giants wide receiver Homer Jones, in an act of exuberant frustration, spiked the ball in the end zone after he scored a touchdown. That was the first such spike in the history of the National Football League. It's been all downhill ever since.
As we all know, kids watch their sports heroes and try to emulate them. And they do, right down to spiking the ball, strutting after some minor achievement, and "talking trash" to players on the other team. How can they help it, these actions are displayed to them on a daily basis as they watch sports events. If it's acceptable for stars like Michael Jordan or Ray Lewis or others to "dis" an opponent, the kids feel they must do likewise.
What is even more sad is that some politicians feel they, like athletes, must heap abuse and disrespect on their opponents. When Bob Dole was running for the Presidency against Bill Clinton, when a reporter was talking with the senator, he referred to Clinton as "your enemy". To his credit, Senator Dole bristled and fired back, he is not my enemy, he is my opponent. That teaching moment seems to have been lost on our current president. And, just as our kids emulate the actions of their sports heroes, so too, do people emulate their political leaders.
Do we want our kids to believe their failure is always the fault of someone else? Do we want them to show their gladness for a personal achievement by hurling some disrespect on another? Do we want a society of enemies or opponents?
Blame it on Homer Jones.
Bob Meade
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