Humility was once considered a virtue. A characteristic that somehow elevated a person. You might even say it helped define them. But that was a different time. We've come a long way since then.
There may still be places where modesty is perceived as a virtue rather than a weakness. Where being self-effacing is valued more than a tendency toward chest-pounding exultation. But I've checked and those places aren't showing up on my GPS.
What I see is plenty of the polar opposite. Unbridled ego, braggadocio, and arrogant behavior reign supreme. Exaggerated pride and self-importance. Great examples for our kids.
In sporting events, for example, where there will be winners and losers, it's the little things I miss. Like not calling excessive attention to yourself in a team sport. Because, team, right? Four or eight or 58 others might have played some small part in the victory. Otherwise what the heck were all those other people doing out there wearing uniforms ... with numbers on them, no less?
End zone celebrations in football have taken on a life of their own. The more extreme they become the more I miss Vince Lombardi's advice that when you get to the end zone, look like you've been there before. In other words, cool it. One can only hope.
And whatever happened to the concept of winning gracefully? Sure, go and celebrate that hard-fought victory. You've earned it. But why not dignify the accomplishment by acknowledging the worthiness of your opponent? Not just in a few perfunctory cliches at the mic in front of the tv cameras, but in a handshake and a thoughtful compliment to a worthy competitor delivered out of earshot of any tv crew. Good sportsmanship you could call it and you would be right.
How you win or lose speaks volumes about character. Or the lack of it. So does trash talking.
Seventy-eight years ago, an unassuming fellow in a baggy uniform removed his cap and addressed an assembled crowd of thousands. On the face of it he was the ultimate loser. He drew the worst of bad breaks. Yet he didn't see it that way. Honored by even his fiercest opponents, the simple humility in his poignant farewell speech elevated him to a level few of us could ever hope to attain.*
Paul Simon's "where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" recalls an American hero archetype uncommon today. One whose exploits spoke for themselves without further need for self-aggrandizement. There are good examples out there and important lessons to be learned. You just have to know where to look.