Home » Around Town » Mark My Words » On maintaining professionalism in the face of loss

On maintaining professionalism in the face of loss

Nobody likes a sore loser.

It doesn’t matter who, what, why, where, when or how, we have all been taught to hold our head high, even in defeat, no matter how heartbreaking the loss.

A loss is tough, no matter the situation. We do not like to lose. But we all do come up as a loser every now and then, whether we admit it or not.

You win some, you lose some.

The losses I am talking about, however, are sports-related losses, and the athletes and coaches that have to deal them. Rather, how they deal with them.

Last week, after his team lost to the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick refused to talk to CBS after the game, as is customary. The losing coaches have always made time for the post-game interview, although I am sure they would much rather just get out of the stadium as fast as possible, especially when that loss resulted in your team missing the Super Bowl.

Former NFL player turned CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe called Belichick out for his unprofessional behavior on the air during the broadcast.

“There’s something to be said about being gracious in defeat,” Sharpe said on the post-game show. “We’ve seen the New England Patriots five times in the last 12 years be victorious [in the AFC championship game]. We’ve seen the opposing coaches who lost come out and talk to our Steve Tasker.”

Sharpe goes on to say, “Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can’t be a poor sport all the time. You’re not going to win all the time, and he does this every time he loses. It’s unacceptable.”

I could not agree more.

Belichick is no stranger to controversy. Aside from stiffing members of the media after losses in that past, he paid a hefty fine for a spying controversy that took place a few years ago. Just this year he was fined $50,000 for impermissible physical contact with a referee after a game following, you guessed it, a loss.

As many of you know, I cover the Kalamazoo Wings for this paper. The K-Wings, while a professional team and organization, are a few steps away from the National Hockey League, so to compare the ECHL and NFL is like comparing apples to popcorn. But what they do have in common is professionalism.

Since I started covering the Kalamazoo Wings, I have interviewed three head coaches and countless players, from both the K-Wings and the opposition.

Two of those three head coaches, Mark Reeds and Nick Bootland, stand out as how a professional looks, acts, and sounds. The third coach didn’t even last a full season in Kalamazoo, and I bet you can guess why (as well as other factors).

Reeds coached the K-Wings for four seasons, winning the UHL Colonial Cup in 2005-06 and falling short of a repeat performance the following year in Game 7 of the Finals. That is the year I started covering the K-Wings. I was in Rockford the night they lost. As the Ice Hogs celebrated on the ice, Reeds quietly, but professionally, talked to us reporters with grace, giving props to the winners for a hard-fought series. Bootland was a player on the team at that time. He also spoke with us and took the time to respond to our questions, even though we could tell that his disappointment ran deep. Whether they were angry, disgusted, or whatever they felt, they did not treat us with any less respect than if they had been the ones hoisting that Cup over their heads at center ice that night. Reeds is currently an assistant coach for the NHL Ottawa Senators.

Two years ago, the K-Wings were again in the finals, this time in the ECHL, and this time Bootland was the coach. Again, they lost. And again Bootland displayed the kind of grace and tact that you hope to see in a professional. And so did his players.

Reeds and Bootland have always stressed the desire to have not only great players on their teams, but also to have players who project the kind of attitude that the team and organization feel they build their teams around: professionalism and character. Win or lose, they are there waiting for us, are gracious to us, and, more often than not, thank us for being there.

Losing hurts. I get that. But as a professional, you have a job to do, win or lose. Maybe certain coaches and players should come to Kalamazoo to see how true professionals do their job. It could be a real eye opener.