Edson: Selfish Players Are Hurting Team Sports

Click on the TV and watch any NFL game on Sunday. Or college football game on Saturday. Or attend a local high school game on Friday.

At least one time – and usually many more – during a football, baseball or any other sporting contest, you witness selfish play that hurts a team.

Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about:

* A defense forces a quarterback, running back or wide receiver to fumble. Instead of just jumping on the ball and giving the ball back to his team, the defender tries to scoop up the ball with hopes of returning it for a touchdown and individual glory. More times than not, the defender mishandles the fumble and the offense recovers the ball.

* In baseball, a runner is on second base with less than two outs. Instead of trying to hit the ball to the right side of the field, the batter will swing for a home run or any other type of hit that doesn’t require giving himself up and advancing his teammate into scoring position.

* A couple of weeks ago in a close game involving the Detroit Tigers, a batter from an opposing team came to the plate in the ninth inning with his team trailing by a run. There were two outs. The batter had a single, double and home run. All he needed was a triple to hit for the cycle. He hit a ball in the gap and should have stopped at second base to give the next batter a chance for a hit that would tie the game. Instead, he tried to stretch his double into a triple and he was thrown out by a wide margin to end the game.

There are countless examples in sports. But you get the picture.

The problem is, when professional athletes are setting these selfish examples on TV, young high school and college athletes get the impression it’s acceptable.

It isn’t.

And the sooner someone gets to these athletes and lets them know that they are playing for the good of the team – and not just for themselves – the better off it is for everyone.

The bottom line to this is that it carries a lesson far more important than sports.

As you work yourself into a job, there are times you have to sacrifice for the good of the team and the company. It isn’t always about yourself.

Sometimes that doesn’t seem right. But the respect you gain from your teammates or co-workers helps build a bond of trust.

If you’ve ever played a team sport, you know how important that trust is.

In this day and age, that can be tough to do. We’re living in the age of sound bites, ESPN Top Ten Plays and Twitter. Too many athletes are looking for that golden moment that will shine the light on them.

That message is all about being selfish. They try to make it a “me” moment when it should be a “we” moment.

Not a weekend goes by that I don’t notice these selfish moments by athletes. Some of these athletes probably don’t even realize they are even being selfish. If they don’t, they need to be told.

More games are lost – not won – by these defining moments in a game.

So the next time you are watching a football game and a defensive player simply dives on a ball to recover a fumble, make sure you recognize it.

Or as this baseball season heads down the homestretch, take note of the players who do the “little things” to help their teams win.

Sports needs to do a better job right now of teaching athletes to be unselfish… even if it means giving up a brief moment of personal glory.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.