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Eric Zweig dishes on the benefits of sports-talk

November 22nd, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Eric Zweig

Eric Zweig is a lifelong sports fan who has been a professional sportswriter since 1985. He is the author of four books for young readers.  Here we talk to Eric about some surprising examples of how the actions of sports heroes can help serve as examples of positive character building for youth.


tough guys covercrazy canuckslong shot coverstar power


Q: You've been writing about professional sports for nearly 30 years. Have you seen a change in the way the media and sports commentators are talking about events or incidents that raise issues of fairness, respect, fair play, and sportsmanship? What effect do you think these commentaries have on young fans?

A: These days, with all-sports TV networks, all-sports radio, web sites and twitter feeds, there is just so much MORE sports coverage than when I was growing up, and EVERYTHING gets talked about more than it used to. Lately, concussions and head shots are the big issues in hockey … and this seems to lead into the idea that players today have less respect for each other than they used to. I’m not sure that’s true, and hockey has always been a very violent sport, but I do think it has led to an understanding that younger people playing hockey do have to learn more about fairness, respect, fair play, and sportsmanship. Parents of young athletes too. And that has to be a good thing.


Q: Your Recordbook Tough Guys is an example of how sports can help develop the character attribute of citizenship, because it shows how two rivals, Joe Hall and Newsy Lalonde, put aside their differences and learned to work together for the greater good of their team. How would you relate this to what kids might be seeing in professional sports today, or even in their own youth leagues? 

A: Tough Guys certainly touches on this … but my book Crazy Canucks, about the national men’s ski team in the 1970s and ’80s, is an even better example about the importance of teamwork. Skiing is pretty much an individual sport, and even though there are national teams, in that era, the Europeans pretty much all prepared as individuals. Realizing how undermanned and underfunded they were compared to those European “teams”, the Canadian skiers realized that they really would have to work together in order to have any success at all. And the success they did have was truly amazing. There’s an expression that says “there is no ‘I’ in team” and I think that most of us do have to learn, in sports, and in our work, that we often have to put our own feelings aside and do what’s best for everybody. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, and I do think it’s something that sports can help with.


Q: In Long Shot, you show how the Winnipeg Falcons, a hockey team made up of working-class Icelandic immigrants, were kept from playing in the regular Winnipeg league because of prejudice. Yet that team went on to represent Canada in the Olympics and even won the first Canadian Olympic gold medal in ice hockey! What character attributes do you think it took for them to win? What made them such a successful team?

A: The story of the Winnipeg Falcons is a truly inspiring one! The players really had to overcome a lot in order to succeed. I think the hardships they faced did teach them the importance of fairness, courage, respect, and perseverance. They showed that a small group, working hard together, can really accomplish a lot. And when they did reach the top (ie, winning the Canadian amateur championship and going to the Olympics), the way they treated the poorer passengers on their ocean voyage to Europe showed that they really were fair and honest people who wanted to treat others they way they wished they had been treated. The same when they got to Europe and realized how much better they were than the European hockey teams. They refused to run up the score. They even worked to train those European players to become better at the game. It’s really a perfect example of the way we are all are supposed to behave — in sports and in life!




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