I don’t usually write about sports, and you can all relax, because I’m not going to today.
But I will talk again about sportsmanship. Seems the topic keeps coming up lately.
A few weeks ago this space dealt with a controversy involving a kids’ soccer league in the San Tan Valley and some allegations of not-so-very-sportsmanlike attitudes exhibited by … adults.
This past week, the youngsters had some more role models to consider emulating. The Los Angeles Dodgers, after dispatching the Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-5, to win the National League West division in big-league baseball, celebrated Thursday night by leaping into the Chase Field swimming pool just over the right-centerfield wall.
Some D-Backs fans are likely miffed, to say the least, about it. They might see it as a put-down of the home team, as if that was the most important consideration.
The home team could have avoided such a display if they didn’t relinquish the NL West in the first place.
This was a division the Diamondbacks were leading around the time of the All-Star Game in July. But through several of their losses and Los Angeles wins after that point, the division went decisively to the Dodgers.
So, so much for the home team’s feelings. They’re big boys and paid sacks full of money to help them get over such slights.
Out here in fan-land, however, where instead of being paid money to enjoy the experience of baseball, it costs money, the Dodgers — who properly earned their division title — remain just another example of public figures who simply don’t know their manners.
No, the issue is not what a lot of fans think, that it is about their opponents’ lacking respect for the D-Backs because the local fellows are suffering from the embarrassment of defeat, and the aquatic endeavors of the fellows from Southern California added insult to injury.
It’s simpler than that. And here’s where the Dodgers let the kids down, because their infraction was that they went somewhere they weren’t supposed to, something we try to teach our children.
The visiting team is no more entitled to swim in the Chase Field pool than you and I sitting in the stands are. I tell you most assuredly: if, after a particularly warm day at the ballpark, I popped up from my upper-deck seat and decided to take a dip on my way out to the parking lot, a squad of security officers would be quickly fish me out and haul me off the property.
Maybe the Dodgers felt, in their division-winning euphoria, that their status as rich celebrity athletes gave them a sense of entitlement that, in truth, didn’t exist. Perhaps someone in the clubhouse forgot the portable speakers and the recording of Queen performing, “We Are the Champions,” and a post-clinching plunge seemed to be an easy second choice.
I’ve gone back and forth over whether pro or even college athletes should be role models for children, but each time I think about it, I realize it’s not up to the athletes themselves to decide, Charles Barkley’s famous declaration that he wasn’t a role model aside.
Children choose whom they emulate. For well or ill, just as parents sometimes wish their kids would simply do as they say rather than do as they do, it ends up being the opposite. Athletes, because they play little more than the grownup version of games kids play, are people those youngsters want to mimic and idolize.
So, whether it’s the Dodgers in the Phoenix ballpark swimming pool or University of Arizona football players ambling back on the field to stomp on the Arizona State University mascot logo on the 50-yard-line to celebrate beating the Sun Devils a few years ago, it’s all part of a lack of class some people in athletics keep expressing.
This is not an indictment of sports figures generally, because for each Dodger doing the backstroke in the stadium pool there’s any number of athletes who — in many cases without public fanfare — perform many random (and planned) acts of charity and kindness that require time, energy and effort beyond merely writing a check. They show respect to fans as the people who make it all happen for them in their charmed lives.
I can’t imagine one of these athletes leaping into a very public pool that they don’t own. Actually, you know who owns it?
The taxpayers of Maricopa County who built the place. They’re the people in the stands who aren’t allowed in that pool, either. That is, unless over and above their taxes, they paid a nice four-figure amount to rent it.
• Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.