The Games People Play

The Games People Play

I saw something amazing the other day.


In a high school baseball game in a far-away country with teams and players I couldn’t ever hope to remember.


I saw an example of integrity.


Maybe I noticed it because I don’t seem to see it as much anymore. Or perhaps it’s because the constant deluge of partisanship and the mindless sycophants that help craft it have begun to grow so tiresome as I watch television and scan the news each evening.


My guess is that, like everyone else, I appreciate truth and honesty – or wish I did a better job demonstrating it.


Japan’s high school championships are watched by millions – up to 50,000 people physically attend every single game. Fifty-six teams compete for the title over 15 days.


The winners effectively become instant national heroes.


Which makes what happened when Kennobu Sugawara was hit by a pitched ball in the seventh inning of one of those games all the more amazing.


As with our rules here in America, a batter struck by a pitch is directed by the umpire to take first base


Only Kennobu did something no player ever does.


He said no, admitting he had intentionally leaned into the pitch – a violation of the spirit of the game.


Taking first base wouldn’t be right he said.


The umpire hesitated and then directed him back to the batter’s box.


Kennobu in turned bowed to the pitcher and to the opposing team’s dugout.


He was to say later, “I thought I was bad because I had been bent forward and I was sorry. I apologized to the opponent.”


I’ve been a sports fan most of my life – and I’ve seen a lot of errant calls that favored another team – another player. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the advantaged party decline the edge.


I’ve watched players – and teams – bend the rules to their advantage without compunction. Contrite only if caught – gleeful when successful.


I’ve watched coaches who lie and steal – all to win the game.


Oh, and I’ve also been a part of crowds that shamelessly lose all perspective and common sense when it comes to their home team – to include screaming invectives at those who disagree (see opposing fans, officials, children, etc.)


The other day I watched a pool of parents in a free-for-all because of a T-Ball game controversy.


And over in Japan a 17 year old on the biggest stage of his life says, “No, this isn’t fair.”


I’ll never meet Kennobu Sugawara. I have no idea whether his team ended up winning that game or how they fared in the tournament.


I only know that for one brief moment he reminded me that there still is a place for truth – and that integrity really does matter.


When he stepped back into the batter’s box the next pitch was a fastball.


Kennobu nailed it for a homerun.


Notch one up for the good guys.







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