Showboating or Taunting?
Noah Lyles does it. So does Sha'Carri Richardson. Usain Bolt? Definitely. Jakob Ingebrigtsen has been known to indulge. Jim Ryun did it in the 1500m at the 1972 Olympic Trials.
What would you call it?
Last weekend, at the ACC Track & Field Championship in Raleigh NC, Virginia Tech had a 400m runner DQ'ed by officials for unsportsmanlike conduct. Before seeing the video my initial reaction was that maybe he was just showboating - in my book no harm no foul.
But the meet referee saw it differently. Judson Lincoln's action resulted in the Hokies losing the men's team title, the removal of ten points dropping Virginia Tech from 1st to 4th place. Here's a link to the video of the last part of the race.
After I looked at the clip I had to agree with the official decision. Lincoln made a foolish choice. Instead of sharing his happiness with the fans he chose attack his defeated opponent, as though the Hokies' impressive performance didn't speak loudly enough.
I have no issue with showboating - an athlete pounding their chest, sticking thumbs under the school name on the singlet, or playing to the crowd. After all, who wouldn't be excited to win a conference title or an NCAA championship. Or even an Olympic title.
C'mon. There is no reason why winners must be modest or humble.
The athlete is playing to the crowds, looking for a response, sharing the exuberance of the moment. Not for a second did I consider Usain Bolt unsp0rtsmanlike in his victory celebrations, his jubilation shared with me like a gift from the sprint Gods. How could I not be happy for him?
But just as we expect athletes to lose graciously, we also expect athletes to win graciously, to share their joy with the crowd, and bask in the exhilaration - not taunt some rival. This is where the line was crossed at the ACC Championship. He taunted his opponent. Acted like a petulant child. Demeaned someone just to feel bigger.
A lot of older fans might believe winners should be bland, emotionless robots, but that's not how today's athletes think. They see nothing wrong with cupping a hand to an ear or raising palms to get applause from the crowd. A fist-pump as they cross the line or even flexing to the fans seems like a great idea. There are those who don't even like athletes wearing sunglasses. Huh?
These are all cool with me.
But I guarantee in the next three weeks a high school athlete will be DQ'ed by an over-zealous official at some state meet, the winner foolishly trying to imitate what they've see on videos, unaware officials don't know (or maybe care) about the difference between showboating and taunting. There is, but the meet referee may not be so sympathetic.
Far too many of these individuals (some might call them old fogies) hold on to old-fashioned standards, forget this is 2023 and not 1973, expecting kids today to hold the same values as those of fifty years ago. They don't. Bob Dylan said it best.
"Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don't criticize what you can't understand. Your son's and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand."
"For the times they are a-changin."