The definition of sportsmanship

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 02:45 AM

I love every day of what I do. I am truly blessed to do what I do. I love the hunting, fishing, and shooting; I like to test the products companies send me, but best of all are the people I get to meet and get to know. Outdoor people are the best people in the world, but some are extra special.

There are people I meet who simply click with my personality. Chris Cerino was one of them. I met Chris at the Bianchi Cup National Action Pistol Match in 2011. I knew who he was because I’d followed the History Channel’s shooting show, Top Shot, religiously since I saw the previews. The popularity of recreational shooting had blossomed in the last few years and Top Shot was a main stream, prime time, TV show about shooting all kinds of guns. I was elated to see such a show and, as a guy who doesn’t watch a lot of TV, I’ve seen every episode of the five seasons.
Chris was at the social meet-and-greet NRA puts on to begin the Bianchi and he was with Iain Harrison. Iain and Chris were the two finalists in that first season and Iain beat Chris out by one shot. They were fast friends and one rarely saw one without the other. Cherie and I saw a lot of them during that week and I invited both to visit when they came through North Carolina.
A couple of months later, Chris called and asked if he could drop by and our real friendship began. We shot the National Defense Match together that year, Chris and his son Colton and me and my grandson, Phoenix. Since then, our families have spent a week of vacation time and a week of Christmas time together and Chris, his wife, Michelle, and the boys Alex and Colton, call me Papa. We talk almost every week and, like many of the people in my life I really enjoy, I don’t get to spend enough time with them.
Chris has spent his whole life in some form of law enforcement. His first badge was that of a park ranger in the Glacier National Park. Later he was a cop, then a Federal Air Marshal, then a trainer for the Air Marshals, then a trainer for the State of Ohio’s law enforcement officers. When the Top Shot show came to an end with him having some notoriety, he followed his dream and began the Chris Cerino Training Group, teaching law enforcement officers, military, and civilians how to be more effective in their shooting. He competes in a broad spectrum of competition and does very well for someone who isn’t dedicated to winning in a particular shooting discipline.
Chris competes as a way to sharpen his skills and while he’s a threat at any event he competes in, he realizes that winning isn’t everything. Chris competes because he loves to shoot and be around other people who love to shoot. He competes because he knows it makes him an even better shooter. He shoots because it’s fun.
This week, I watched the finale of Top Shot, All Stars. Chris was one of the shooters who made it to the final four and the last night of the show. The show was filmed almost a year ago, just after our week of the Fourth vacation together, but because of the way TV shows work, I had no idea of the outcome. Early in the show, Cherie complained because they didn’t show enough of Chris. She was like a little league mom, saying things like, “Why don’t they show more of Chris?” By the end of the show, she was calling it the Chris Cerino Show because Chris was in front of the camera for almost every interview.
I believe the reason the producers put his face on the screen was because of the attitude he showed. Chris is competitive and determined. At the same time, he is generous to those around him and wants to see them succeed. He is a man who understands that another man’s success is not a determination of his failure. I know that what you see on TV often has no link to reality but I know Chris Cerino and the man in that TV series is the man he is. It is way I’m proud to call him my friend. 
My boy, Chris, didn’t win the $100,000 and the Bass Pro Shop custom boat this week, he came in second. My predictions were that he’d win if the finals were guns only but something like throwing tomahawks might take him out. It was the crossbow challenge that took him out and he finished behind the winner, Phil Morden. But he played the game hard and he was the epitome of what a sportsman should be throughout the process. He is no different in his everyday life and that is more of an accomplishment than simply winning one final contest in a series of contests he dominated.
I was disappointed Chris didn’t win, but I was proud of the way he conducted himself and that’s the reason for writing this. We’re at the beginning of the outdoor sporting season. For those of us who love and live outside, this is the best time of year. Each of us is an ambassador to the sports we love. Like my friend Chris, we need to represent the true definition of sportsmanship in all we do. Doing that makes us all winners.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com