Today’s sporting world makes me think of my schooldays when quite often our teams had suffered heavy defeats and the teachers would express the sentiment that it was the taking part that was all important adding ‘it’s only a game’.
I recall when Doncaster’s Rugby League team were dubbed the worst side in the country and a TV Documentary was made describing their dismal record but also their valiant efforts to do better. As it happened this TV showing seemed to spur them on to improve and they went on to succeed.
The true Olympic spirit is really the taking part even though the world’s finest athletes have qualified to enter the Games. But have we still much to learn? Has that schoolday attitude I mentioned been kicked into touch? The word of match officials is far from taken for granted today and because of the harassment and stress some of them have had to call it a day. There is something most undignified about seeing world-class players in numerous sports sometimes act like spoilt children, but has this too become part of the game?
Of course we want to win. Of course we all want to see our national sides take the victories, but we also want to see them all do in the same exemplary spirit of our recent worldwide acclaimed competitors in the 2012 Olympic Games. The whole country felt and enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere engendered. We have to get rid of the deadly frenzy of seriousness which leads to unsporting behaviour and childish tantrums.
It may be that true sportsmanship suffers from the abuse of the huge and obscene payments currently made to athletes in many sports. Some players, awash with such riches, land up tarnishing their reputations in one way or another. Perhaps we are realizing that sport is meant to be fun for player and spectator alike. Bill Shankly, when asked if soccer was a matter of life and death, replied: ‘No - it’s more important than that’. But Bill was a real sportsman and this answer is all about realising it’s only a game.