Friday, September 30, 2016

A True Spartan Sportsman

Amid all the sordid news about bad conduct by athletes and coaches throughout the sporting world, it is good to note there have been many instances of true sportsmanship. Two recent unrelated events caused me to recall one of my favorite positive sports stories.

Last Saturday, I watched the Michigan State University football team in action because they were hosting my Wisconsin Badgers. The next day, Arnold Palmer died. Palmer dominated professional golf for years, first on the regular tour and later as a participant with other older stars in the Legends of Golf tournament and similar events.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s I played golf many Saturday mornings at a course near our home in  Ogden, Utah, with a group of men who jokingly referred to themselves as the "Local Legends." Some of us were as old as Palmer and the rest of the real "legends," but none of us came anywhere close to their skill level. It was easy to join our group; anyone who wanted to play could.

By the luck of the draw, one Saturday I wound up in a foursome with a newcomer named Jones who was a professor at Weber State University. Dr. Jones was a big man who hit golf balls a long way, but not terribly accurately.

It was fall, and the chit-chat in our foursome naturally turned to football. "Did you ever play?" Jones was asked.

"Oh yeah," he replied, I was a  defensive tackle for a couple of years at a small west coast school."

"Which small school?"


That exchange got some laughs, and also led to a question about Jones' experiences on the gridiron. He said only one was memorable.

"We played Michigan State. They had a lot of talent that year; we were pretty lousy. They beat up on us every which way.

"After we took our licking, we were sulking in our locker room when the Spartan coach knocked on the door. He asked our coach if he could speak to us. No one I know ever heard of an opposing coach doing that.
Daugherty earned many well-deserved honors
"Duffy Daugherty stood in the middle of the room and told us we had nothing to be ashamed of. He said even though we were over-matched, we had played our best to the very end, and he was impressed. He told us it had been an honor to coach against us that day. He said if we lived the rest of our lives with the perseverance we had shown, we would always have reason to be proud of ourselves."

Although he didn't specify the contest, Jones probably was referring to a game in 1961 when the Spartans beat Stanford 31-3. That year MSU's record was 7-2; Stanford went 4-6.

Several years later, Daugherty's Michigan State team was named national champions in a poll of coaches. Dr. Jones' story led me to believe coach Daugherty was one of the true champions we sorely need today in sports.  


Alan Parcells said...

I had the privilege to meet Duffy Daugherty during a visit to the MSU campus in the 1960s. At the time several of us from Upjohn were interacting with a scientist, Joe Meites, who shared a common interest in endocrinology. At the conclusion of our discussions we went to eat at the training facility for hotel and restaurant management students. During our meal Joe introduced us to Daugherty who happened to be passing by our table.

Beth Ann DeWaters said...

Thanks for sharing. My first husband played for Duffy at Michigan State.

joared said...

Great story! That's what sports should be about.

Terra Hangen said...

That is an inspiring story of a coach with heart to speak to the opposing team. My dad was a sports writer in the midwest and this is the kind of story he especially loved.