Chivalry Rounds the Bases

When I suggest that “chivalry” can be used in (and might actually improve) athletic competition, I often hear snickers. But a recent event demonstrates, I think, the power that real chivalry can have – the power to elevate competition above a simple contest for trophies or titles, to something that touches our hearts and raises our spirits.

Here’s what happened: When a player in an otherwise-routine girls’ college softball game sustained a debilitating knee blow-out during a home-run lap and collapsed on the baseline, the officials told her team members that an article of the rules stated her run would be invalidated if anyone from her own team made contact with her before she completed the run. Noting that the umpire didn’t say anything about the opposing team’s members, the first-baseman and the shortstop picked her up, and carried her around the field to score her run.

The story must have hit a nerve. It was picked up by CNN, The New York Times, ESPN, the Associated Press, and darned near every major print and broadcast media source in the country.

There has been debate as to whether this was a real act of athletic excellence, or just a nice little oddity that would never have occurred at the level of professional sports. (And, predictably, there were several comments implying that this might be something that would only happen in girls‘ sports – that guys (the “real athletes” – grrr!) would never be so naive or sentimental as to let honor and respect get in the way of winning a game. … sigh … )

In my opinion, however, this act of chivalry, and the tidal wave of coverage it set off, really speaks to the hunger we have to see this sort of thing. Would the “majors” have done such a thing in a World Series playoff game? Maybe not. If a professional player did do something like this in a nationally televised playoff game, would it go down, not just in the record books, but in the history books? You bet! That’s what sports are all about, and that’s what makes the difference between a winning season and a memorable career – too bad many coaches and athletes lose sight of that.

I’m hoping to cover this incident in more depth in a future article on the website, or possibly even get one of the players as an interview on the podcast.

Read the report about the Sara Tulchosky incident in the April 30 edition of the New York Times.