What we missed in the Douglass-Star Spencer Aftermath

Posted by Defining Moment on 03/13/2017

On Saturday, basketball fans were treated to an epic championship game between crosstown rivals Douglass and Star Spencer schools. It was a hard fought contest with thrilling plays that kept everyone on the edge of their seat until the final moments. Douglass came out on top, winning their seventh state championship in eight years.

Moments after the final buzzer, several Douglass players rushed to the other side of the court to taunt and jeer at the Star Spencer fans. It was a display that, for many, overshadowed their on-court performance. Their behavior has been criticized as “classless.” The critics are not wrong. But let us not forget that this was done by young men who – like all of us when we were teenagers – still have some growing up to do.

In situations like this one, it’s easy to just focus on the negative. Yes, poor sportsmanship is wrong. It’s discouraging. As fans, when the game is over we would like to see players build each other up rather than tear each other down. But poor sportsmanship is not the full story. Here are some of the reasons I left the arena feeling encouraged after the game was over.

Communities rallied around their student athletes

Both schools had a huge turnout of fans that supported and cheered for them throughout the game. After the game was over, Star Spencer’s fans waited through the awards ceremony to personally greet, hug, and encourage their players. A police officer put his arm around a despondent Star Spencer player and encouraged him on the way back to the locker room. The community relationships that were evident during and after the game on Saturday will be of far more lasting value than a gold ball or silver ball trophy.

Douglass players honored an absent teammate

Before the game, Douglass players left a chair empty and put Day'Quann Ervin’s #4 jersey in it. Ervin was unable to play in the game due to a medical condition. After the game, in the midst of the excitement and chaos, one of the players grabbed the jersey and held it up during the celebration to honor their missing teammate.

The coaches cared more about the players than the scoreboard

Once the players from both teams lined up to shake hands, it seemed as though the line would never end. Coaches from both teams took time with the individual players to hug them, encourage them, and tell them how proud they were of them. These were coaches who understood that basketball is about more than just basketball. It’s an opportunity for boys to become men. These men are more than coaches – they are role models and mentors, and they built up not only their own players, but also those of the opposing team.

This state championship game was a long, hard fought battle. Emotions ran high on both sides, and it culminated in a display of poor sportsmanship by some of the Douglass players. Young people make mistakes. But in situations like this one, it’s important to recognize the bad AND the good, understand the difference, and choose to encourage the good.

I’m confident that the adults who are influencing these teens will help them grow into the men they should become. In the meantime, let’s take a few moments to notice the good.