Dunlap: Is This Sportsmanship Or A Terrible Lesson?

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Man, I’m conflicted.

On one hand, I can see where some view this as one of the finest acts of sportsmanship and selflessness they have ever come across — and they might be correct.

On the other hand, I could see where some might view this as rewarding failure, as buying into the “everyone gets a trophy” culture that, in some ways, has ruined sports — and they might be correct.

Again, I’m conflicted.

Over the weekend I stumbled upon a piece in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald that had been circulating on social media.

Or, I can give you the crux of it.

Here goes, from the piece:

Oh boy.

That’s what crossed Jesse Orach’s mind when he tried to stand up at the finish line of the Beach to Beacon 10K in sight Saturday morning. The 23-year-old Gorham native was leading the field of Maine runners when he collapsed from heat stroke.

“It kind of seemed like it was over for me,” said Orach, who finished first among Maine men in last year’s race. “Then, I felt someone pick me up.”

Robert Gomez, Orach’s top competitor from Maine, helped him to his feet. Gomez, 34, of Windham held Orach up as they ran together to the finish line, and Gomez gave him a nudge over the line. Both men completed the 6.2-mile course in 31 minutes, 31 seconds.

“He ran a better race. He gave it more than I did,” Gomez said. “I didn’t deserve to win.”

OK. There you have it. And as the story continues, Orach — the man who was felled by heatstroke — would eventually be declared the winner.

This raises a ton of questions. Or maybe it raises absolutely none for you. Perhaps, this is a simple, clear-cut case of one of the most deluxe illustrations of sportsmanship you have ever come across. You view it as such as you move on — the guy who would have won (Gomez) gaining more from a second-place finish and helping his fellow man than he ever could have by running past him and earning gold.

But, indeed, there are questions for some — and, again, I can understand. By doing what Gomez did, is that rewarding Orach for a lack of preparation? For a lack of hydration or whatever was the reason he wasn’t able to reach the finish line on his own?

Orach’s legs gave out less than 100 yards from the finish line and he wasn’t charged with the duty of running a 9.8K, but rather a 10K faster than everyone. Had he wanted to truly win gold, shouldn’t he have had to run the entirety of the race unassisted?

Also — and, again, I can see where some feel this way — what does Orach learn in the long run from falling short yet having someone there (literally, in this case) to pick him up? Is he not permitted to understand failure to learn a lesson? It feels like this is a microcosm of the I-have-helicopter-parents and everyone-gets-a-trophy generation that Orach is a part of.

This situation that arose in some running race in Maine over the weekend really springboards into a fascinating debate with numerous tentacles.

For me, I admire what Gomez did. It was altruistic, self-sacrificing and probably brought to him immeasurable personal warmth. But if I had tried that hard and set out to compete that day, the truth is I almost certainly would have run past Orach if I were in Gomez’s shoes.

That’s just the truth, man.

I would have run past him and gone back to check on him later, but I would have chased victory before checking on someone else. That’s just the simple truth of all of it.

Does it make me a bad person for wanting, more than anything, to win? I don’t think.

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