I was extremely fortunate yesterday.  I was able to attend a sporting event that allowed me to witness acts of sportsmanship that are missing all too much today in professional sports.  That’s right – it was time for the local Special Olympics Flag Football Tournament!

This was an exciting time for all.  My 19 year old son, Matthew, has Down Syndrome and was a participant for one of two teams that represented the daily program that he attends, One Step Beyond (which is absolutely the best program we have ever been lucky enough to be associated with).

The tournament was held on the west lawn of the Arizona Cardinals facility (University of Phoenix Stadium), which is where the tail gate parties are held prior to each Cardinals home game.  For those of you that have never attended this ritual before the game, you’re missing out on a great time.  However, I digress!

Matt’s first game wasn’t until several hours after registration, which allowed me quite a bit of time to take in the scenery.  There were four football fields created on this parcel of lush green, which means that there was a lot of activity going on at the same time.  The divisions were broken down by age and by whether the coaches were allowed to play or not.

Matt’s coaches played.  This meant that two coaches and three players were on the field for both teams at all times.  This helped to keep the game moving and competitive.  This also gave the coaches an opportunity to show how to be a good sport.

Just as all sporting events will have players with different levels of skills, this tournament was no different, filling the spectrum from no experience to very gifted athlete.  However, the one thing that was missing from this tournament that is all too prevalent in standard sporting events was the attitude.

You know what I mean.  There are always a couple of players that feel they are too big for the event, and that the fans should feel lucky that these particular players have chosen to grace them with their presence.

That didn’t exist on this day.  All players, regardless of size, age or ability, were helping each other back up, high fiving each other for good plays or simply good tries.  Even the players on the opposing teams.

The coaches showed just as much grace, too.  Even though most of them were athletic in their own right and were used to competing at a much higher level, they never let anyone see one ounce of frustration, as they continued to cheer their team mates on.

When each game ended, the teams joined in to give their opponents a cheer and then lined up to shake hands.  As the teams left the field at the end of each game, there would be one or two players that were kind of upset that they lost the game.  There would also be a coach, parent, sibling, etc. right there to remind the player that it’s okay that they were outscored, as long as they did their best.

You can’t help but feel good when witnessing an event like this.  In this day and age of win at all costs, even if that means injuring the opponent on purpose, it’s refreshing to be reminded of the basic lessons of sportsmanship that we were all taught at a very young age.  Unfortunately, these lessons seem to be forgotten by many as they continue to get ‘older and wiser’.

Thanks to the Special Olympics, these simple, basic lessons in sportsmanship will continue to be taught on a daily basis.  How fortunate for all of us!



  1. 1 Joe Munley

    Awesome post. I am volunteering at the Special Olympics Nashville track and field events on April 16th. I’ll be sure to update you!

    What a great thing to be a part of.

  2. 2 Scottie Blanton

    Awesome Scott!!! truly enjoyed this post. Matt’s my favorite!

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