Like it or not, no matter how nice you are, there is a mean streak inside you.
During this year?s Greek Week events, I got a good glimpse of that streak in everyone, and I realized how difficult it is to play nice.
Greek Week is an annual fundraiser for sororities and fraternities to get together and compete in friendly sporting events. The prize is only a trophy, but to many, the glory is worth so much more.
Some may say that it is healthy competition, but sometimes, when honor and recognition are at stake, the concept of good sportsmanship fades, and attitudes turn ugly. To make matters worse, one?s attitude spreads to other teammates like a plague. In the end, people get hurt ? physically or emotionally ? and grudges start to form.
I know ? it happened to me.
I?m generally a friendly and easy-going person. But as soon as the whistle blows and an athletic competition begins, I become an aggressive and hungry predator seeking a win.
Last year, in the intensity of a Greek Week basketball game, I broke a girl?s finger ? by accident, of course. But that incident made me realize how an athletic event, something that is ?just a game,? can turn into a war where fairness and respect fade.
It took a whole year for strangers to change their impression of me and realize that who I was on the court starkly contrasts with the ?real? me. But as I walked on to the court last Wednesday, it dawned on me that some still see me as the ?Wu-inator? ?an ultra-competitive athlete who runs over whoever stands in her way. I was determined to prove them wrong, but in the back of my mind, I knew would be near impossible.
But as the clock ticked down and the intensity of the game heightened, my aggression and frustrations stayed under control. I kept my competitive edge, but something clicked. Despite the elbowing and the unfair picks by both teams, for once, I was the one who kept my cool while others lost control.
A few days later, I thought of New York Knicks? Latrell Sprewell and how much he would have empathized with my experience.
For those who don?t follow the NBA, Sprewell was playing for the Golden State Warriors in 1997 when he let his anger explode on the court. His case was more severe, attacking head coach P.J. Carlesimo, and it cost him more than a $32 million contract and a year suspension from the NBA ? it cost him his respect and almost his career.
For three years since that incident, the name Sprewell caused many parents to shiver and complain about his misbehavior. Some still chastise Sprewell for his mistake, despite his many attempts to make things right and show that he has learned that good sportsmanship is an integral part of an athlete?s image in the public eye.
?I need to show [the fans] that I?m not the guy they think I am,? he said.
Playing sports is emphasized to be an excellent outlet for stress relief. Aside from their health benefits, athletics encourage good teamwork. But the players need to be reminded sporadically of the concept of sportsmanship and respect, especially in intense situations. Otherwise, a flash of anger can spin out of control, leading to a mistake that will scar a reputation or a career, like in my case and that of Sprewell.
Although both Sprewell and I have redeemed ourselves, it was a tough task, and it was an unforgettable lesson that I think all athletes should learn.
It is difficult to maintain a competitive edge and team spirit during a game while keeping respect for the talent of the competition.
And that juggling act is why athletics are a test of physical and mental strength ? a test that we should all appreciate and learn from.