Gamesmanship can be defined as the use of legal but unsporting tactics to gain an advantage over one’s opponent, and coaches in professional athletics indulged in unsportsmanlike conduct during the Thanksgiving recess.
Recent controversial coaching maneuvers by Mike Tomlin, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, and Jason Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets head coach, have led to questions surrounding the character of these men.
During a kick return in the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s Thanksgiving matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, Tomlin found himself as the last line of defense against Jacoby Jones, the Ravens return man.
Tomlin’s foot was clearly on the field of play and impeded Jones’ path to the end zone. The Steelers Super Bowl-winning coach and leader said he was watching the return on the JumboTron, and he accidently let himself get too close to the play.
Tomlin said his actions were inexcusable and embarrassing, but emphasized that his conduct was not intentional.
Tomlin is a respected coach in the National Football League, but after watching the incident repeatedly, only one conclusion could be made – he engaged in gamesmanship.
The play changed the complexion of the game because instead of Jones trotting into the end zone for six points, the Ravens were forced to kick a field goal – in a game that was decided by two points.
Tomlin’s unsporting tactics were mirrored by Kidd, the first-year head coach, in Brooklyn’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday.
Kidd found his team down two points with only 8.3 seconds remaining, and most importantly – no timeouts left.
The Net’s coach was shown on camera appearing to mouth the words “hit me” to Tyshawn Taylor, the Brooklyn nets point guard. Taylor followed his coach’s orders and bumped into Kidd, spilling his beverage on the court.
The time needed to clean the mess offered the Nets’ assistant coach a chance to put together to potentially game-winning play. The incident did not play a factor in the outcome of the game, and the Lakers defeated the Nets, 99-94.
Kidd has struggled in his first year at the helm in Brooklyn, posting a 5-12 record.
The struggles continued when the National Basketball Association handed down a $50,000 fine to Kidd for his actions.
Tomlin is awaiting a fine from the National Football League but said he accepts responsibility for his actions.
Both coaches find themselves on teams that are underperforming this season, but both of their attempts at gamesmanship ultimately ended in losses.
Respect plays such a vital role in a professional realm, and both men, due to their actions, have left a negative impression on me.
The saying “if you’re not cheating then you’re not trying” applies to both of these situations, but as a professional coach, you should have a sense of upholding the honor of the sport that has given you a livelihood.
Responsibilities of a head coach are vast but most importantly it is to put your team in the best possible position to win, ethically. If you have to resort to cheap and dirty tricks to get a victory, I believe that says a great deal about the character of your team.
Underachieving as a professional coach leads to being fired and that is the last thing either of these men would like for their future.
Next time Tomlin or Kidd think about participating in gamesmanship, they will be reminded of the hit that it took on their pocket book and character.
Both men are well respected for their accomplishments in professional sports, but anymore stunts along these lines and my respect for either would begin to dwindle.
Instead of partaking in unsportsmanlike conduct to change the outcome of the event from the sideline, either coach should take more time in preparation for a game to aid their players without physically taking the field or court with them.