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Whatever happened to the lost art of sportsmanship?

Now don't get me wrong, I love to see comical touchdown celebrations and chest-thumping reactions after a facial slam dunk on the basketball court just as much as the next guy.

I enjoy the flamboyant theatrics of Chad Johnson in the same manor as I liked watching stoic demeanor of Barry Sanders as he hands the ball to the referee after an 80-yard score. However, there is a thin line between show-stopping entertainment and showing up your opponent.

In this glamorized world of me, myself, and I athletics, sportsmanship has taken a back seat on every level of play from the pros to our local school-aged teenagers.

Last week I had the privilege of covering the Clayton County Middle School football championship between the North Clayton Tigers and the Riverdale Spartans.

While the game was very entertaining and I did see several young athletes with an abundance of talent, I did notice one particular incident that stood out to me more than the final score.

Following North Clayton's victory, during which they rallied from being down two touchdowns in the first quarter to clinch the title, several members of the Tigers' football squad tossed their helmets in the air, danced around the field like they were at the club and even did back flips in celebration of their championship season. All of this came before they lined up to shake their opponents hands at midfield.

Of course I don't expect 12 and 13-year-old boys to know any better, but I was disappointed that their coaches didn't seem to have any problems with their distasteful display of disrespect for the game and their opponents.

Young people emulate what they see on TV and adults need to be aware that their actions have a huge impact on their impressionable fans.

On the collegiate level we've seen several instances in which the visiting squad jumps all over the host logo on the 50-yard line during pregame warm-ups. This automatically triggers a shoving match where we sometimes see more action from players than we would during the actual game.

Trash talking has even gotten out of hands in recent years. The art of talking smack is as old as the dirt under our feet. Even Goliath ran his mouth prior to his infamous battle with David. However, we all know what happened to him courtesy of a rock and a sling shot.

If you're going to talk the talk, make sure you back up your words with bulletproof action. Perhaps the greatest mouth of all-time, Muhammed Ali, was never at a loss for words prior to or during his heavyweight bouts. Nevertheless, at the end of the fight, he hugged his opponent with class and wished him well.

Sportsmanship may be a dying fad in today's world, but it still has its proper place and should never be ignored. Athletes on all levels should display class at all times and be humble in victory as well as gracious in defeat.

Now, come out, shake hands and may the best man or woman win.

Rory Sharrock is a sports writer for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at rsharrock@news-daily.com.