[FOUNTAIN]Poor sportsmanship

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[FOUNTAIN]Poor sportsmanship

Tomakomai High School in Hokkaido, Japan, is comparable to a small school in Jeju Island. But because of this high school’s baseball team, the Japanese islands went wild with excitement last year. The team won the Koshien Championship, the most prestigious high school baseball tournament in Japan, for the fifth year straight, accomplishing a monumental task. It was a near miracle in the 57-year championship history. The players became the heroes of Hokkaido and a source of pride for Tomakomai residents.
However, also because of this baseball team, Japan is suffering hard times. Third-year students who had played a major part in winning the championship showed disgraceful behavior after their graduation last Wednesday. They drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes at a nearby restaurant. Not only the team manager, but also the school principal resigned. Japan’s High School Baseball Federation is thinking of banning the school from participating in this year’s tournament. It is because of a rule of “selecting baseball teams with school tradition, dignity and ability.”
After all, it was not a lot to fuss about. The graduating students drank a couple of low alcohol cocktails and puffed on cigarettes a few times. However, it was the town’s elders who reported the drinking. The Tomakomai police was not willing to overlook the trivial misbehavior of the “regional heroes.” High school baseball is an extension of education.
Recently in world sports tournaments, Japan has not done so well. At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, they won only one gold medal. It was a poor record for a country ranking second in the world economy. It is hard to understand considering the heat and enthusiasm for sports, including the World Baseball Classic, in Japan. In comparison, Korea is achieving remarkable results in sports. In some events, the world is jealous because Korea takes home all the gold medals but it seems as if something is missing. We are uncomfortable when hearing that national athletes have walked out of their athletic village or rumors of factional strife. Is Korea a truly strong power in sports? There might be a day when the limits of our elite sports, which are symbolized by the Taereung Athletic Village, are revealed.
Katsumasa Shinohara, the principle of Tomakomai High School was firm about resigning. He spoke strictly when asked, “Is it really needful for everyone to resign?” “Athletic skill is not enough. A high school athlete must have a sound mind, skill and physical strength. I want to take responsibility for not teaching the students their duty as students,” he said.


by Lee Chul-ho

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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