Great Sportsmanship On Display At North Lenoir-aycock Game


This is a column by Bryan C. Hanks, managing editor of the Kinston Free Press, about a football game he witnessed Friday night. Bryan has always been an astute follower of high school athletics and this is a great example of what we hope happens in the NCHSAA.

This is reprinted with permission of the Kinston Free Press and we thank them for the privilege of running this column:

Sportsmanship — just saying or writing that word seems almost as antiquated as watching old black and white footage of Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson.

Sportsmanship is what we’re taught in Little League and by the coaches for whom we played at the parks and recreation department. But sportsmanship is sorely lacking in today’s athletics, whether at the prep, collegiate — and especially — at the professional level.

All you have to do is look back at the past week; during Thursday’s nationally-televised NFL game, with his team trailing by three touchdowns to the New York Giants, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers scored on a meaningless run.

Instead of simply handing the football to an official and running back to the sideline, Newton — one of the NFL’s most dynamic players that thousands of children look up to — made a mockery of himself by striking his “Superman” pose, in which he pantomimes ripping open his jersey to reveal a big “S” on his chest.

All the pre-planned gesture did was to make a big ass of Newton, who has been roundly criticized nationally for the uncharacteristic gaffe from a second-year player who was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year following last season.

But you can’t really blame Newton, who likely grew up watching Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Terrell Owens, Kyle Busch and Dwight Howard — “me-first” athletes who put their personal agendas and pride ahead of their respective teams.

Sportsmanship, however, was on display following North Lenoir’s overtime loss at C.B. Aycock in Pikeville. The Hawks have had a tough time lately; they haven’t won a conference game since 2006, a streak that reached 29 games following their 28-26 setback to Aycock.

It was the manner in which they lost Friday, too, that might’ve tested their sportsmanship — the Hawks never trailed the entire game, all the way until Aycock scored on a quasi-accidental two-point conversion on the final play of overtime to steal the victory from North Lenoir.

After the Aycock quarterback scored the final points, shocking the North Lenoir players, the Golden Falcon players began to — understandably — celebrate a victory they didn’t think was possible only a few moments earlier. While Aycock players were celebrating, though, North Lenoir’s players were literally in shock, with as many as seven or eight on the ground sobbing.

That’s when class and dignity (or sportsmanship?) kicked in for the Aycock players. Instead of following the lead of so many pro athletes these days and mocking or belittling the Hawks players, almost every Golden Falcon player I saw started hugging and consoling the very same opponents they were battling only moments earlier.

I saw two Aycock players help up a North Lenoir player who was on the ground weeping so hard he was having trouble catching his breath — and then they almost carried him to the post-game handshake line.

After the handshakes, both teams came together and took knees for a post-game prayer.

Those moments after the game were moving and shocking. And yes, it was refreshing to see this type of sportsmanship still exists in 2012.

My hat is off to C.B. Aycock head coach Randy Pinkowski, his coaches and his players for winning with dignity and for the way they treated their fallen opponents on the field.

I also salute North Lenoir head coach Calvin Sutton and his staff and players for the way they reacted after the game — a lot of teams would’ve wanted to start some guff after a gut-wrenching loss but Sutton’s Hawks were extremely classy in defeat. Their reaction was a microcosm of the personality of Sutton, one of the most dignified and classy coaches in our area.

North Lenoir might’ve lost that game, but the Hawks won my respect and the respect of all who saw them Friday night. Believe this: performing in a sportsmanlike way is much more important than what a scoreboard might display at the end of the game.