In honor of Thanksgiving, I started thinking about the way people express kindness, and why. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, because I’ve spent the past month with a sling on my right arm. For four weeks, it amazed me how much nicer people were to me because of a piece of cloth supporting my arm. Strangers held doors open and said things like, “No, after you,” and, “Let me get that for you.” I went to Houston’s with a group of friends last Friday and a couple seated across the bar from us picked up our tab. They said it was a “get-well gift.”
I went to a Lakers game with my friend Denege, and when a man bumped into her while we were walking into the arena, he apologized … to me. A woman stepped on her foot with a stiletto heel and then shot her a look as if to say, “How dare you put your foot so haphazardly in the way of mine?” Then she smiled at me.
Five weeks ago, a few hours after his Huskies beat Louisivlle, UConn cornerback Jasper Howard was stabbed in a brawl outside of a university-sponsored dance. The next week, the Huskies played West Virginia on the road. As the UConn players ran onto the field, the West Virginia fans cheered them. Before kickoff, players from each team met at midfield to hug, shake hands and greet one another in Howard’s memory. There was a moment of silence. The next day, journalists—and UConn coach Lew Perkins—praised the fans for their unprompted act of sportsmanship and kindness.
Last week, this Twitter post made the LA Times sports page the day after longtime Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler, who had never missed a broadcast in 25 years, was suspended for one game for seemingly innocuous comments about Iranian player Hamed Haddadi that offended one season-ticket holder: L.A. Times’ Lisa Dillman: “Classy move: Baron Davis had all the players sign the game ball from Friday night’s victory and it was presented to Ralph Lawler.”
And two days ago, Shaquille O’Neal offered to pay for the funeral of a young girl who was brutally murdered in North Carolina.
These are all wonderful acts of kindness and great examples of sportsmanship. But my question is this: Why does it take the death of a player, the suspension of a legend or a broken appendage for people to treat one another with kindness, and for teams and their fans to act with sportsmanship?