The thing is sport just doesn’t interest me. I don’t play it, watch it or concern myself with it in anyway. It’s something that other
people do. I suspect it all stems from my aversion to being a joiner. The last thing I ever joined was the Brownies when I was about seven and it ended very badly. I somehow found myself involved in an undignified scuffle with Brown Owl’s daughter over the toadstool, in an incident that shames my mother to this day. Suffice to say that pretty much put an end to any joining ambitions I may have had.
Although I am not one for sport, I do however, like a good sporting story. The kind which emphasises sportsmanship and fair play and the more sentimental the better. Recently, there was the tack incident during the Tour de France. Someone, either protester or random nutcase, threw tacks into the path of the cyclists causing some to have punctures. I became quite
tearful reading how all of the cyclists who didn’t get a puncture waited for the others and then resumed their previous positions so as not to gain an unfair advantage. I even felt compelled to track down the clip on YouTube so that I could give full vent to my sentimentality.
The Olympics, if good for nothing else, have historically provided many fantastic stories. I like the one that came out of the 1936 Olympics which was later verified by Jesse Owens himself. Apparently during the Long Jump Owen’s technique was off and it was his competitor, the German Luz Long, who offered him the advice that saw him win a gold medal. At a games that was shadowed by possibly one of the worst periods in world history, what a glorious story to show how sport can, and so often does, transcend politics.
There’s also the now iconic image from the 1968 Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave their black power salute. A stirring story in its own right but made more so when you learn that the Australian silver medallist, Peter Norman gave the two men his gloves to wear and wore a human rights badge to show his support of their stance. No mean feat when you consider that Smith and Carlos were consequently ostracised by the sporting establishment and subjected to abuse and death threats.
Although I am not a sports fan, I do think that it has the potential to be a massive force for good in our society. At a time when so
many young people are struggling to find their way in life we need inspiring stories, where fair play triumphs over less worthy ideals, more than ever. Young people need an alternative world view to counterbalance the prevailing capitalist dogma which leaves so many of them feeling excluded and disenfranchised.
That’s why it makes me sad that so many footballers fail to see the influence they have on young boy’s lives. Boys, who may not have any other male role models, look to these young men who are paid exorbitant amounts of money but who persistently let us down. Countless examples of misogynistic and thuggish behaviour permeate our culture until kids start to perceive it as normal. The prevailing attitude seems to be that if a young man is good at football then rape, assault or blatant racism is his birthright. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it is money that has tainted football. It has become big business and there is no room in
the modern business model for fair play and social and moral conscience. The glorious game has given way to the profit margin.
What would be nice then is if the 2012 Olympic Games, whilst plunging us into financial ruin, could maybe inspire us as a nation to reclaim some of the lost values that we used to hold dear. A return to a code of conduct of which to be proud; where the best person wins and everybody pulls together for the love of the sport and not the money.
Having said that, I doubt I’ll be watching any of it. I will be scouring the newspapers, however, looking for sentimental stories and, should I find any, I can always watch a bit on YouTube.