While I like sports, I have many friends who love them. Sportsmanship is important in the world of sports. The Merriam Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary defines the word this way, “fair play, respect for opponents, and gracious behavior in winning or losing.”
Though I like that definition, many years ago I was more moved by the way Grant Whybark, a sophomore at the University of St. Francis, defined it by his unselfish actions.
Whybark was a fine golfer. In fact, he was on the team which won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship. He was on track to also win the tournament’s individual honors. His closest competitor was Seth Doran, a competitor from Olivet Nazarene College. The winning team and the individual tournament winner were to proceed to the NAIA National Championship.
When Whybark learned if he won the tournament his friend Seth would be ineligible to play in the national championship he did something extremely unusual in the world of sports. Whybark stood over his tee shot on the first playoff hole, looked down the course and hit the ball 40 yards right of the fairway. His intentional bad shot, combined with the fact that his friend made par, assured both made it to the nationals.
Asked later why he threw the hole, Whybark explained, “We all know Seth very well, and he not only is a very good player, but a great person as well. He’s a senior and had never been to nationals. Somehow, it just wasn’t in my heart to try to knock him out. I think some people were surprised, but my team knew what I was doing… My goal from the start was to get (to nationals) with my team. I had already done that.”
In a world where far too many fall prey to the myth that winning is all that matters, it is very refreshing to read about a young man who knew some things are more important than winning another trophy which will eventually collect dust on a shelf.
Shane Bacon, a writer at Yahoo Sports wrote that Grant Whybark was comfortable with himself and thought his friend deserved one more week competing in the game he loved. It is amazing that someone doing something kind for a friend would attract national attention, but that is the world in which we live.
However, this is the way Jesus challenges all of us to live. Consider his words, “’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:31, NLT) The reality is Whybark’s sacrificial kindness to his friends would not likely make the news if everyone took Jesus ‘ words seriously.
The world would be a better place if we each treated others the way we want to be treated. Whybark, did more than win a trophy, he set a great example for all of us. His kindness challenges all of us to live the same way and is nothing short of amazing.