I went to the cinema yesterday to see the new movie, Rush, about the incredibly intense rivalry between the formula 1 drivers james Hunt and Niki Lauda, and the ferociously fought 1976 World Championship.
At the end of the film, after a monumental season-long tussle for the title they meet in Bologna by chance. There ensues a conversation in which Lauda talks about the 20% risk of death in every race. Hunt rounds on him and tells him that he hates when Lauda speaks in such serious and strict senses – because he is missing the point of driving. The point of driving is not to win. He says that Lauda is taking the most important thing out of the picture – the sport of it all.
Driving for Hunt is a passion, a game, something he does for the love of it.
This is the essence of sport, but where has that sense of fun gone? Nowadays we have hordes of nutritionists, statisticians, analysts, dieticians – sport scientists of a myriad of different specialities.
When I was in school, science was for nerds who loved facts and figures, laws and rules; sports were for the lovers of freedom and life and creativity, those who enjoyed the fun and games and the sense of adventure and exhilaration experienced when you scored a great goal or made a great catch, or sank a great putt.
That rush of adrenaline that made you physically tingle from head to toe, inside and out.
We ran around after a ball in the schoolyard at lunch break, and around the streets or local parks after school, we didn’t want to endure the miserable drudgery of the classroom and the serious side of life.
Now, I realise that as we got older we started to also find winning more and more important, but not at any or all cost. We still had to enjoy it. And we trained hard to bring a higher level of quality to our game – because essentially we enjoyed it more when we played well, just as we had always done even as small kids in the playground.
It’s sad to hear today’s commentators specifically point out the few individuals who it is ‘a pleasure to watch’ because they always seem to be enjoying themselves – they ‘play with a smile on their face’. They are the minority.
More regrettable is the fact that so many ‘sportsmen’ are actually just competitors for whom winning is the only thing that matters and are willing to go to any and every length to achieve victory.
In recent times we have seen a huge number of high profile drug test failures, with many sports realistically not being trusted by the general public anymore – cycling in particular taking an absolute hammering, but athletics also suffering major setbacks.
But I find it absolutely hilarious to listen to the amount of football fans talking with the utmost contempt about the number of drug-related scandals and law-breaking that occurs, without the slightest hint of irony, and completely missing their own hypocrisy. Hilarious, yet sad and pathetic. As if football is pure and innocent!
Other forms levels of cheating have been soaring in soccer over the last decade especially. Football coaches are telling their players to look for the contact and then go to ground in order to win penalties and frees and also to get opponents dismissed.
We have also seen an exponential growth in incidences of players diving when there is not even any contact at all.
We have also witnessed the plethora of corruption stories, some proven, some not so, some conveniently masked by ribbons composed of loopholes. And this is corruption at the very highest levels of the game.
In rugby we saw the infamous ‘Bloodgate’ affair involving Harlequins RFC against Leinster in the Heineken cup a few years ago, when Harlequins wing, Tom Williams, broke a fake blood capsule in his mouth to enable a tactical substitution which restored Nick Evans to the pitch, Evans having earlier left the game injured.
‘Sport’ is riddled with cheats who only care about winning because, unfortunately for those of us who love ‘the game’, it is a business, it is money, it is profit.
‘Sport’ is dying. And only we can stop that from happening.
Today we see children playing in parks just as we did when we were their age. They, like us before them, emulate their heroes. The major difference, however, is that we see them fling themselves to the ground and feign injury and agony, writhing around like burning snakes – looking to gain any unfair advantage.
This is what professional ‘sport’ is teaching our children and youth. These are the young people who will one day grow up to run our world and manage our societies.
Do we really want our planet to be ruled by a generation of cheats, law-breakers and morally questionable characters?
What kind of future are our children going to build for themselves from our legacy?
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