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Michelle Turnberg, Published March 17 2012

Turnberg: March madness is in full swing

March madness is in full swing.

Conference, state and national tournaments are being contested and make for a wonderful time for sports fans. The games will be full of sweat and excitement, success and failure and, increasingly, personal drama.

The drama reminds me of a great bit of wisdom from my dad. He watched a lot of football on television, and whenever someone showboated, he shook his head and said, “When you make a big play, act like you’ve done it before.”

Many of today’s athletes didn’t get that message. How many times have we witnessed athletes go over the top with their celebrating? There is chest pounding, screaming and pure theater in nearly every game.

Often, the show starts during the pregame buildup. The dance routines that take place after a big play obviously took a fair amount of premeditation. Think about it: Not only do today’s athletes practice in-your-face boastfulness, they premeditate it!

One of my favorite athletes of all time is Barry Sanders. The man was incredible on the football field, but the moment play stopped, he reverted instantly to his quiet and gentlemanly self. He handed his touchdown ball to the nearest official. He didn’t spike it, and he didn’t slam dunk it over the goal post (of course, at 5-foot-8, that might not have been an option). Sanders didn’t trash talk or dance in the end zone. He once said he learned this humility from his parents, and he epitomized class and decency on the field.

Humility is a trait I admire in people, and it seems I am drawn to those who possess it.

When I was in high school, I dated a boy whom I liked very much. He was from another school and a little older so I didn’t know a lot about him. He was funny, cute and kind. I remember asking him once if he played any sports. He replied, simply “Yes, a little bit.” That was all he would offer.

It turned out that he was the team captain and an All-State player. A month after my naïve inquiry, he led his team to the Minnesota Class B championship in the Prep Bowl. He also excelled in basketball and track and would go on to play Division I football at the Naval Academy.

We dated for two years and are lifelong friends.

I was only 17, but the lesson I learned has stuck with me. It’s boorish and unimportant to call attention to yourself. And when you’re really good at something, you don’t need to toot your horn; someone else will do it for you.

Not surprisingly, Benjamin Franklin had a wonderfully simple take on the subject. He said, “Humility makes great men twice honorable.”

As usual, well said, Ben.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays. She can be reached at michelleturnberg@gmail.com.

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