By now everyone has probably heard about David Katz, the video gamer who went off the deep end after losing a Madden NFL 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida on August 26. Katz, a 24-year-old competitive gamer who had won previous tournaments, went on a shooting spree killing two and injuring 11 other players before turning the gun on himself ending his life.
Katz drove from Baltimore down to Jacksonville for the video game tournament. About 150 gamers competed in the competition for a $5,000 prize. The winner was set to go on to a finals tournament in Las Vegas with a $125,000 prize. One of the gamers who defeated Katz in the tournament said that he was acting weird.
The gamer said that when he beat Katz in the group round, he tried to shake his hand, but that Katz just stared back at him blankly. Another witness to the shooting said that Katz got mad after losing in the elimination round on Sunday. He then left and came back and started “blasting everybody.”
In February 2017 he won the Madden 17 Bills Club Championship in Buffalo, New York. At that time Katz told one of the reporters, “I think personally, I’m one of the better players – and I like to let my game prove that.” His game this year proved him to be the winner of the sore loser of the year award.
To put it lightly, this guy had major mental issues. Or to put it simply, the guy was nuts. Now, I’m not equating this obvious psycho to professional athletes with short fuses, but this horrible incident got me to thinking how pros have become, shall we say, less than gracious when things don’t go their way in games.
“Good sportsmanship,” “don’t be a sore loser,” “It’s only a game,” “It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” In times past most of our pro athletes have lived up to these sayings. Tennis champ Jim Courier said, “Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off the court and you really can’t tell whether he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way.”
Maybe it goes along with the rest of today’s crude and rude society, but more and more professional athletes are showing poor sportsmanship and throwing tantrums when things don’t go well for them. A player who makes it to the professional level is among the best in his particular sport and is supposed to have his emotions somewhat under control at that point.
The first time I remember seeing a pro player throw a fit was John McEnroe, who had absolutely no self-control of his personal emotions. His confrontational on-court behavior frequently landed him in trouble with umpires and tennis authorities, as he’d slam his racket down on the court and curse and scream. No class.
As a baseball fan it bothers me that many players are totally letting loose with their emotions on the field. They strike out; they slam their bats on the ground. I’ve even seen a couple of players break the bat in half across their knee. They scream obscenities (we don’t hear it on TV, but thanks to all the tight camera close-ups, we sure can read their lips).
You see the tantrums a lot with pitchers when they blow it and a batter hits a homerun. Sometimes they put their gloves over their face, but the body language demonstrates major anger. Even when they get out of a tight jam you’ll see them walking off the mound and screaming at the top of their lungs. Don’t remember Drysdale or Koufax doing that.
In a recent Dodger game Clayton Kershaw got a base hit. He should have stayed on first, but he didn’t stop. As he slid into second he was called out (by a mile). His reaction to the call was to slam his hand as hard as he could into second base. He got up and as he walked back to the dugout he was screaming. Later in that same game, relief pitcher Kenley Jansen was taken out after a batter hit a home run. He walked into the dugout screaming and threw his glove knocking over drinks and other things on a shelf.
Pro ball players shouldn’t act like this. What makes it worse is that lots of impressionable youngsters who idolize these guys are watching their heroes throw fits and of course they’re going to do the same thing when they play ball. Hell, if the pros have temper tantrums, then it must be “cool.”
I liked sports better when it was “cool” to have good losers and gracious winners.
Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.