Why Steve Prefontaine would have loved Urban Meyer...

I should start by noting that I’ve lived in Oregon for the better part of the past decade and, having come to love my adopted state, I was pulling for the U of O Ducks to bring home the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?).

As you might imagine, the Ducks’ flaccid performance on Monday night was a letdown—so much so that I did my best to avoid any post-game coverage. Consequently, I didn’t realize there was any controversy over Ohio State’s final touchdown until I came across this headline in yesterday’s The Oregonian, the paper of record here in the Beaver State: “Poor sportsmanship by Urban Meyer? Should Ohio State have taken a knee on final drive?”

Being that this was in The Oregonian, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the author’s question was largely rhetorical. To whit, the piece quotes a range of pundits from across the Intarwebs calling Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer everything from a poor sport, to class-less to a God-less hypocrite (you can’t make this stuff up).

It seems clear that my take on this is in the minority—particularly amongst Oregonians—because when I read the piece, the first thing that jumped to my mind was this:

Image source: The RUN5KADAY Blog

Image source: The RUN5KADAY Blog

For those who aren’t able to see the image above, it depicts Steve Prefontaine, a distance running phenom from Coos Bay, Oregon who, coincidentally, ran for the University of Oregon in the early ’70s under famed coach and Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman. The image includes one of Pre’s best known quotes: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Pre absolutely lived by that credo: Much to Bowerman’s chagrin, he ran his guts out from start-to-finish of every race. The concept of ever going easy on his fellow competitors was completely alien to Pre. In his view, doing so would have been disrespectful to himself, his competitors and his sport. It was this attitude, and Pre’s ability to back it up on the track, that made him a legend.

As an Oregonian, as an athlete and as a fan of sports, I believe Pre had it right. So, to those who exclaim that Urban Meyer exhibited poor sportsmanship by encouraging his athletes to go all out for the full 45 minutes of the National Championship game, I say you’ve got it upside down. Taking a knee would have been the most disrespectful thing he could have done to the Ducks, his own players and to college football. It would have said that it’s okay to give less than your best in a game that the 122 other Bowl-eligible Division I teams spent the past season bleeding, sweating and crying to be a part of.

So, bully for you, Urban Meyer! You exhibited a spirit of sportsmanship that would have made Pre proud, even though I’m sure he would have been pulling hard for his Ducks.

And to those who view Meyer as a class-less, God-less hypocrite for not taking a knee, do you apply the same standard to other facets of life? For example, do you think Nike should shut it down for a month to give adidas a chance to catch up? Or should Google’s search engine team stop development for fear that Microsoft’s Bing team might start feeling inadequate? I’m guessing that most Meyer haters would answer no to both of these hypotheticals, which leads me to one last question: Why should the values you live by be different from the values you play by?

I’m genuinely interested in hearing viewpoints that are contrary to my own, so let’s keep the conversation going on Twitter @edotkim.