Sportsmanship and Character
Last week I shared Aaron Joel "A.J." Monseau's story of athletic triumph. Today, A.J. Monseau will share his open letter to Mr. Barry Blizzard, Commissioner of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Written on November 6, 2002, it illustrates that true athletic sportsmanship is still alive.
Sit back and enjoy.
To Mr. Blizzard:
I have been an athlete all my life, and I have witnessed many events that one may classify as courageous, inspirational, amazing, or breath-taking. Most of these events will only be known to the fortunate few who witnessed them. This is a tribute to the athletes who performed these acts not to prosper in the way of fame, but rather as a true representation of self.
Today, many cynical sportswriters and fans complain that true athletes have given way to money-hungry, front-page-seeking prima donnas who would sell out their chance at a championship for five more seconds in front of a camera. It is true that this new breed of "athlete" has come to the foreground of sports, but this abomination has by no means eliminated the diligent, blue-collar, honest athlete that has inspired so many people for so long.
It is these athletes that give us the stories to pass on to our children...the stories of athletes reaching deep into themselves to summon strength, quickness, or agility they didn't know they had. Or maybe it wasn't a physical attribute summoned at all, but rather a strength of character, honor, or sportsmanship.
I would like to share with you one such story.
I was competing in the WVIAC cross-country championship last weekend and ran what amounted to my best race ever, but this story doesn't concern me. It isn't even about anyone on my team, but it does involve a friend of mine.
Ryan Donahue, a product of Bellaire St. Johns, runs for Wheeling Jesuit University where he is in his senior year. I could see Ryan for most of the race since he was just in front of me, but I could never catch him.
After crossing the finish line exhausted, I saw Ryan sitting on the ground and congratulated him on his race, and he did likewise. He then told me that he had finished in tenth place. This was a great accomplishment for him since tenth was the last place considered to be on the all-Conference team, and as a senior, I knew he was shooting for on of those places.
A short time later, the awards were handed out, but Ryan wasn't awarded tenth place. In fact, tenth place had been given to a runner from the host school; the same school that garnered second place honors behind Ryan's team.
Now during the race, Ryan had sprinted with the other runner and had out-leaned him at the finish line, but there was a slight problem. For this race, each runner had been given a computer chip to put on his shoe. Ryan had crossed the finish line first, but somehow the other runner's chip activated the computer first.
This story could have ended here, stressing the lesson of doing your best and dealing with disappointment, but not so. Due to a courageous athlete who was strong in character, this story has a better ending.
Paul Moore, the runner who was originally awarded tenth place, knew that a mistake had been made. He immediately notified the race officials of the error, rectifying the problem. But there' more.
Paul Moore made it a point to present the tenth place award to Ryan Donahue. Moreover, he did it in front of Ryan's Wheeling Jesuit's Cross-Country Team, both men and women.
Personally, I do not know Paul Moore of West Virginia Wesleyan, but he has once again revived my faith in athletics and sportsmanship. I am proud to relate this story, but I must close with another thought that makes me even more proud.
I would be willing to bet that there are many, many more athletes who would give up their plaque under similar circumstances; many more than most people would think.
Paul Moore is not the exception, and NO...character, honor, and sportsmanship are not dead!
A.J. Monseau 5th year Senior West Liberty State College Wrestling and Cross-Country
A.J. Monseau's letter set in motion the following chain of events.
When Wesleyan athletic director, George Klebez, learned of Monseau's correspondence, he nominated Paul Moore for a national sportsmanship award. In his letter to the NCAA, Klebez wrote: "What I will share with you involves three athletes (Paul, Ryan, and A.J.) from three different schools. It reflects on all three, and their understanding of what is sportsmanship."
On June 16, 2003, Paul Moore was the recipient of the NCAA's "National Citizenship Through Sports alliance Sportsmanship Award," which is sponsored by the National Athletic Directors Association.
The awards ceremony took place at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida at the 2003 National Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention. It paid tribute to special athletes the likes of Paul Moore.
As the master of ceremonies put it, "These student-athletes represent the highest ethical standards in sport. Their lives and careers have reflected an enduring commitment to citizenship, sportsmanship and community service."
What more needs to be said.