Editor’s note: The Reporters’ Notebook is an opportunity for Clarion reporters to share their experiences with our readers as they cover the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.
Being a veteran of several dipnet seasons here on the Kenai Peninsula, I looked forward with guarded excitement at the prospect of a few thousand extra people coming to area highways and byways for the Arctic Winter Games.
With all the bumper-to-bumper traffic, especially on roads leading to the mouth of the Kenai River in the summer, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to see a bunch of extra cars here during our quiet season.
Now that the Games are here, though, I can happily report the worst part as is often the case was the anticipation.
Actually I found myself smiling Monday morning when I got behind a car sporting a Klondike Yukon Territory license plate.
In most parts of the United States, people dread driving on icy, snow-packed roads in winter.
Here was a guy from a thousand or so miles away just popping over to see his kid or kids in the Games.
That’s pretty neat.
Open a sports page these days, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to skip straight to the com-ics. Basketball brawls. Lockouts. Obscene gestures. Little League umpire assaults.
It seems everywhere you turn, someone is giving you a reason to turn your head in shame at the behavior of athletes, fans and coaches across the U.S. and the world.
It’s almost gotten to the point where athletes and fans are expected to act boorishly toward one another in an effort to display their commitment to the “just win, baby,” mentality of today’s sports world.
So it’s refreshing to see the selfless attitudes displayed by the athletes and coaches participating in this year’s Arctic Winter Games.
While covering the wrestling event Monday, I watched as athlete after athlete showed why this kind of event is so special. After spending a few minutes smashing each other into the mat sometimes to the point where blood was drawn competitors then shook hands and often hugged after the final whistle sounded. There was no pouting, no whining. Only the shared respect for a fellow competitor.
Later in the day, I traveled to the Inuit games competition, where this sense of fellowship was again on display front and center.
Despite being locked in a fierce competition to win a gold ulu, one-hand reach rivals David Thomas and Matt Anikina were all smiles throughout the competition. Instead of chilly stares and fiery glances, the two traded good-natured tips and handshakes throughout the event.
Not only were the two individual stars cheering for one another, but members of their respective teams cheered just as loudly for the opposing competitor as they did for their teammates.
Far too often, winning at sports is put at a premium that casts the true meaning of competition into the shadows. Winning is everything? Please.
To compete to the best of one’s abilities is the only score that counts in the one game that really matters the game of life.
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