March 18, 2006

Rick Say Anything, Any Time

Canada's Rick Say is at it again at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Say, you may remember, made headlines at the 2004 Olympics when he had this to say after a disappointing fifth-place finish in the men's 4×200m freestyle swimming relay:

I'm pissed off, I'm disappointed. This is crap.

Now, I don't have any problem with athletes speaking bluntly about their own performances. It's refreshing, frankly, to hear somebody say something more meaningful than the usual platitudes. They shouldn't have to pretend to be positive all the time.

But tonight I watched the same event at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. The race was a real barnburner, with England, Scotland, Australia and Canada exchanging the lead several times. The Canadians were hoping for a victory, based on a second-place finish at the 2005 World Championships. Unfortunately, they finished fourth today. In the post race interview for Canadian television, the swimmers expressed disappointment. At least two of them said that they felt responsible for the loss, and that they should have done better. Say — standing right next to his three teammates — had the last word. I'm paraphrasing here, but the essence of Say's statement was:

I'm really happy with my swimming here. But we didn't really put our best team forward. You can't expect to win if you're not committed to it.

Translation: I'm pretty good, but you can't expect me to win with these three clowns. Say was apparently unhappy about the selection of Brian Johns for the team (not the first selection decision he has disagreed with at this competition).

An old coach used to advise us: don't piss in your own tent. It's one thing to say that you performed poorly, or even to say that your team performed poorly. But implying that you could have won if you'd been swimming with somebody else, well, that's bad sportsmanship. Sometimes those thoughts are really better off unexpressed.

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