While watching Alistair Brownlee help his brother Jon, who was close to collapsing with heat exhaustion, over the line in the Mexico made me realise just how unsportsmanlike our national game has become. It was a wonderful example of sportsmanship as well as brotherly love and was just one example of how many other sports behave in a far more admirable way than football.
I definitely get that sport is about winning and doing your absolute best to win but sportsmanship has to play a part or surely there can be no genuine satisfaction in winning if you cheat.
Remember the 1969 Ryder Cup when American Jack Nicklaus picked up Tony Jacklin’s ball marker on the last hole ahead of a 3ft putt for GB & Europe’s Jacklin to tie the tournament and said “you wouldn’t have missed Tony but I didn’t want to give you the chance”
In 1982 Jockey John Francome threw away the opportunity to win his 4th National Hunt Jockeys’ Championship after his closest rival Peter Scudamore suffered an injury that ended his season. Francome after drawing level with Scudamore on points refused to ride any more races. He said it was out of respect for Scudamore who he felt had had a fine season and deserved something to show for it.
In Cricket’s World cup semi-final between Australia and Sri Lanka in 2003 the Aussie batsman Adam Gilchrist was given not out by the umpire and yet walked because he knew he had edged the ball behind.
Do you remember Warwickshire’s Ian Bell being run out in the test against India at Trent Bridge after he had left his crease thinking his batting partner had hit a boundary? However India’s skipper MS Dhoni withdrew his run out appeal to uphold the spirit of the game.
In tennis Andy Roddick’s clash with Fernando Verdasco in a Masters’ quarter final saw the American display great sportsmanship. The umpire and line judge called a serve from the Spaniard as out which would have meant Roddick won. But he told the umpire that the serve was in and the match continued.
Nigel Mansell stopping to give Ayrton Senna a lift back to the pits. Andrew Flintoff consoling Australian Brett Lee after his brilliant rear-guard batting almost won the game for the Aussies. Flintoff said he did it because Lee did not deserve to be on the losing side.
In 1958 when Britain’s greatest ever formula one driver never to win the World Championship Stirling Moss looked like he would eventually lift the crown displayed a great act of sportsmanship that robbed him of the chance. His Team Mate Mike Hawthorne was threatened with disqualification for reversing on the track that would have cost him seven points. Moss defended him, insisting he was not disqualified, with the end result that Moss lost out on the title by one point,
There are lots of examples of great sportsmanship and yes even in football we have had one or two but sadly more so in years gone by.
In 1998 West Ham striker Paulo Di Canio was gifted an easy chance but picked up the ball and told the referee to get treatment for the injured Everton keeper Paul Gerrard. A year earlier in a top of the table clash Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler ghosted past the Arsenal keeper David Seaman but then slipped. The referee awarded the Merseyside’s a penalty but Robbie Fowler told the referee and the TV Cameras that it was not a penalty and that he had not been touched. Amazingly the referee chose to ignore him. Fowler tamely took the spot kick which was saved but Jason McAteer scored the rebound.
I could not see that sort of thing happening in today’s game where cheating is accepted as the norm by those in it. Diving, pretending to be injured, getting opponents sent off, claiming throw ins and corner kicks when players know full well it is wrong and done purely to force the referee into making a wrong decision and gaining any advantage possible. Even the modern day evil of waving imaginary cards at the referee to get opponents a yellow or red card is in my opinion reprehensible.
I suppose we have to decide what it is we are watching! Is it sport or is it business? In sport there should always be room for sentiment and sportsmanship while in business there appears to be no place for either.
What it does make very clear that it is always the people benefiting financially who decide what is morally and ethically acceptable in their pursuit of money be it sport or business.