Which do you prefer of these biblical admonishments? In your life and in sports?

There was a controversial event at the 2010 National Collegiate Squash Finals that was very upsetting and confronting for me. It made the papers, ESPN, and YouTube and also generated much commentary.

With Trinity College seeking its 12th consecutive annual victory, and leading Yale four matches to two (with five out of nine needed), the Trinity #1 player, Baset Chaudhry, the #1 ranked college player for four years, won the final point in the third game, thus winning his match and the team national championship.

Baset Chaudhry howls at Yale's Ken Chan, while Ira rises next to lady in orange sweater—2/20/10

Baset Chaudhry howls at Yale's Ken Chan, while Ira rises next to lady in orange sweater—2/20/10

At that instant, Chaudhry let out a howl, a scowl and three-inch-away face-down at his Yale opponent, freshman Kenneth Chan, who is at least a foot shorter. The cameras and videos recorded the moment, and the fire was ignited on the explosion that resulted.

“Bad sportsmanship,” “He lost it,” “Penalize and punish him,” were some of the damning comments. The lion against the lamb. The bullying giant versus the innocent little guy.

I was there for two days of the tournament, I know Baset, admire his talent and have seen for years what a gentle young man he is. He also has high grades that have earned him academic recognition and a job already waiting after he graduates this spring.

What was largely ignored by the media is that Chan was constantly bumping into Baset, losing from the beginning (three games in a row), and in the middle of the second game, after Chan made a difficult point, Chan let out an enormous howl up at Baset’s face that was startling, unsportsmanlike and unforgettable. But no picture was taken or published of that provoking gloating. Only one of Baset at the moment of victory giving it back to him.

Polls in the Hartford paper show that of 2000 readers, 61% think that Chaudhry’s behavior was unacceptable. A former sports coach I know agreed, as did a friend who has been a jock all his life. You are supposed to be gracious in victory, able to control yourself, especially in a gentlemanly sport like squash. Even if you are a kid in your early twenties and not a professional athlete. No excuse, no justification is possible. No matter what someone did to you before, no matter what insults might have been said (I have no knowledge or grounds to think that was the case this time), regardless if someone taunted you, cursed you, made comments about your mother or yelled in YOUR face before you yelled back in his. You’re expected to smile and be a nice guy. A good sport. Well done, old chap. You did your best. Cheerio.

I find it hard to agree, even though I was told that I am acting like a “fan” now (which I am), rather than like a neutral observer.

I mind when people not involved in something tell others how they “should” act. I’ve said for years that I don’t think you can know what it is like to be married if you’ve never been married…even if you’re living with someone for years or decades. I don’t believe you can know what it is like to be a parent, with its late night colic caring, pestering, expense, teen-age backtalk, etc, unless you have raised children yourselves.

No matter how many movies you’ve seen about soldiers at boot camp, you’ll never know what I felt like crawling in mud one January at below freezing temperatures with live machine gun bullets whizzing overhead…or jumping out of planes after other guys a month before me had met an updraft that pushed them into the propellers of planes behind them or one guy dreamt of his mother crying over his coffin and quit the program before his last drop. You can never know.

So for an ignorant sportscaster who doesn’t even know much about squash to make judgements…for someone who wasn’t there to be critical…forget it.

How much rage did Chaudhry contain for a game and a half after Chan had shouted at him? Where are the kudos for that maturity? How much adrenaline was pumping in his blood when he knew he had to win for the team, and in front of his family, who had come to America for the first time ever to see their first—and his last—college match. Easy to say what “should” be happening.

Look at all the crooked or twisted Congressmen and political leaders, the celebrities and Wall Streeters who violate the law and societal ethics and morality. They are not always punished, and not even reprimanded sometimes.

At the end of this story, Baset chose to withdraw from the singles national contest that will take place next weekend. He’d won it two previous years and might have done it again. But we’ll never know.

As one friend said, “Sorry for him, but this may be a win for him the rest of his life.”

According to Trinity’s squash coach, Paul Assaiante, “This is a kid who’s been one of the best players I’ve ever had since I’ve been here… Baset is one of the most beloved figures on campus and a scholar-athlete who has achieved faculty honors. He had a youthful lapse of composure, and now he has voluntarily agreed to step down. It’s a classy thing to do and we applaud him for it.”

But I still think some of the reactions suck…

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