Sports is no longer about “what matters not if you win or lose but how you played the game”. It is about win only, and win at all cost.
Not surprisingly, there is no quarter given, and opponents (and their supporters and promoters, too), often up the ante through mind games, aggressive build-ups, etc. This is, sometimes, given martial overtones, as well.
Aggression is not something new. Douglas Jardine’s England team played what became known as the “Bodyline series” in 1932-33 when the prime target was Australia’s Don Bradman. Many referred to the series as “war”.
Steve Waugh’s touring team to India attempted to conquer the “Final Frontier”.
Football fields have, on occasion, become battlegrounds where (often drunk) spectators have pitched battles with fans of their opponents, leading to injury, and, as has happened before, death, as well.
The New Zealand rugby team performs the Haka (Maori war dance) before every game – symbolic of war.
And sledging on the field has only gotten worse.
A badly battered Indian cricket team, hammered in all formats of the game on their recent tour in the summer, now prepares to take on England in a few days’ time, and everyone is asking the same question – how will the team fare?
Some players have spoken about “revenge”. The sponsors of the ODI zeries have called it the “Payback Series”.
And the media has not been shy of calling it a war, either.
The BBC website carried an article (click here) that spoke, amongst other things, of a full-page advertisement that seems to have appeared in an Indian newspaper that carried the headline, “Time for Vengeance – The war between India and England resumes from 14 October.” It showed some of the Indian players, all dressed in combat fatigues, holding bats and stumps as if they were weapons.
Sport is meant to be all about entertainment. To be sure, passions do get aroused as supporters egg their teams on. Yes, there is big money involved because of the television coverage and sponsorship.
Yet, at the end of it all, it is all about a game.
The use of the word “war” in sport might be an example of creative license – a copywriter letting his pen run riot.
It is in poor taste, though.
While seated in the reception area of the school where I had gone for my son’s admission some years ago, I watched a parent speaking with the school’s Principal about her son who had been suspended for some acts of indiscipline. As she pleaded her boy’s case, the Principal gently replied, “Your son is our best football player. We have a match coming up and we might lose because your son will not be in the team, and we will miss him, but he has violated certain rules, and, I’m sorry, his suspension will have to stand.”
I silently saluted the Principal for his stand, and the highly laudable standards he had set in his school.
My mind went back to this incident when I read that Serena Williams had, yet again, vented her fury against officials. This time, it was at the 2011 U.S. Open finals, when she let fly at the chair umpire, after the official had docked her a point.
Whether the official was right or not is not the point. What happened subsequently definitely is. Her tirade included “You’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing?” and “Give me a code violation because I expressed my emotion? We’re in America last time I checked. Really, don’t even look at me, don’t look my way.”
This is the same player who threatened a line judge in the 2009 U.S. Open with a foul-mouthed “If I could, I would take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat.” Serena Williams had been fined $ 82,500 and placed on probation for the 2010 and 2011 grand slam seasons.
And, after the most recent incident? She was fined $ 2000 !!!!! The reason? The violation was not all that serious, according to the USTA.
This is absolutely ridiculous, and laughable.
Chris Evert, the former tennis great and one of only three women in the open era to win more majors than Serena Williams said that she “was so surprised how disrespectful and rude”, and that the $2,000 fine was “like dinner for Serena”. Indeed, considering that the player earned $ 900,000 for being the losing finalist.
Argue with an official in football, and the offender receives a yellow card. Repeat this and the referee will pull out the red card, eject the player from the field and send him off for an early shower.
Show dissent in cricket, and the player will lose a part of his match fee.
The point is that umpires/referees are human and will make mistakes. This is not to suggest that Eva Asderaki, the umpire involved in the U.S. Open was at fault. Serena’s outburst was just not acceptable.
Sportspersons need to understand and realize that they are there because of the people who follow and watch the sport. They are not doing anyone any favours by showing up to play, since the spectators are paying to watch.
Playing prima donna is an insult to the sport, and acts of petulance such as this one deserve harsh and decisive punishment. In Serena’s case, a suspension from a certain number of tournaments should have been imposed.
In the absence of such penalties, loutish and irresponsible behavior will continue, and, in the case of players such as Serena, will be repeated.
Serena claims that her rants happened because it was an “intense” moment. She also claimed that she did not remember exactly what she said.
Very convenient !!!! Shame on you.
She has brought disrepute to the great game of tennis. Serena Williams might be a great player, and winner of several Grand Slams. But, many followers of the game will remember her behaving like a spoilt brat, and her low, loud, boorish and thoroughly irresponsible behavior.
No role model, this.
Have you ever tried to explain the game of cricket to someone? Or baseball? Are there any similarities?
I came across these very illuminative descriptions.
Cricket : As explained to a foreigner…
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
Baseball : As explained to a foreigner…
This is a game played by two teams, one out, the other in. The one that’s in sends players out one at a time to see if they can get in before they get out. If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn’t count. If they get in before they get out, it does count.
When the ones out get three outs from the ones in before they get in without being out, the team that’s out comes in and the team in goes out to get those going in out before they get in without being out.
When both teams have been in and out nine times, the game is over. The team with the most in without being out before coming in wins unless the ones in are equal. In which case, the last ones in go out to get the ones in out before they get in without being out.
The game will end when each team has the same number of ins out but one team has more in without being out before coming in.
Seems simple enough, isn’t it?
To the uninitiated, cricket is a terribly boring game. Partly because of Test matches that sometimes last for five full days and produce no results. And, in today’s fast-paced world, people do not have the luxury of spending that much time on a game.
The one-day format and the T20 version have brought back interest, and some zing has come back into cricket as a spectator sport.
I had never watched a baseball game (they do not call it a match), and decided to give it a try during a recent visit to North America. The New York Yankees were playing the Toronto Blue Jays, and I wandered into the stadium (they call it a park) to watch.
There were over 20,000 spectators, and I was eager to experience the thrill and excitement of a closely fought game. Sadly, as I was to discover later, this did not happen.
Having been brought up on a diet of cricket, I tried to find a link between the two sports, but, after about an hour of concentrated attention to what was going on, I gave up – it didn’t seem to make any sense. Nothing exciting or noteworthy seemed to be happening. Players came in and went away, the bat made contact with the ball once in a while, and the giant electronic scoreboard displayed images of players and their statistics. The PA announcer, meanwhile, spoke in animated tones, and I wondered if he was commenting about some other match being played elsewhere.
For the spectators, the prime reason for being around appeared to be the consumption of copious quantities of booze and greasy hotdogs. For sure, there was the occasional clapping when someone down there eventually managed to connect bat to ball, but that was about all the involvement with the game, from what I could gather.
I grabbed the attention of a West Indian member of the stadium staff who had strolled over to my area of the stand, and putting on my best “teach me” expression, asked him to explain the game to me. Conscious of the fact that both of us were from the cricketing side of the world, he tried to enlighten me by drawing parallels with cricket. While I managed to get some insights, the rest remained a mystery that, perhaps, shall remain unsolved.
There was a lot of clapping and cheering about three hours into the game. I am not sure if that was for the benefit of the team that won, or to express relief that it was all over and one could go home.
I was disappointed about the game itself – boring beyond words, to put it mildly. Even a five-day Test match with no result has more pulsating moments.
It’s perhaps more interesting to watch paint dry than to watch a baseball game.
It came as no surprise when I read that the phone company, T-Mobile, had decided to offer rented 4G tablet options games to fans of the Los Angeles Angels during home games. Gives the fans something to do between gulps of the booze and eats, and seems to acknowledge that baseball is, indeed, boring.
I will stick to watching cricket.
The 4×100 metres men’s’ relay is always a thrill to watch, and this one was no different. If anything, it was even better.
The Jamaicans annihilated the opposition in the 4×100 metres relay at the World Championships at Daegu. The moment Nesta Carter rocketed away from the blocks and 100 metres gold medalist Yohan Blake ran a blistering third leg down the curve, the question in most peoples’ minds was not if but by how much they would win.
And, when Usain Bolt thundered imperiously down the home straight and anchored the Jamaicans home, the gap between them and the rest was all too clear. There were loud gasps – history had been rewritten.
In winning, they beat their own world record they had set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the new record of 37.04 seconds did not come as a surprise. What stood out was the fact that this was the only new world record set at the 2011 championship.
After the disappointment of being disqualified because of the false start in the 100 metres, victory by a distance in the 200 metres in the fourth fastest time in history was some redemption for Usain Bolt.
But, something special was in store. Bolt and his mates in the Jamaican sprint quartet – Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake did not disappoint. Asafa Powell might not have been there in his familiar anchor leg, but that didn’t matter on this night.
The Jamaicans have dominated the 4×100 relay for some years now thanks to fantastic sprinters like Bolt and Powell. Yohan Blake is a great apprentice to this pair. Will they make history once again in London 2012?
The Americans who dominated the event for decades can only watch – in disbelief, perhaps. Their botched baton exchange was perhaps symbolic of how the shift in power has taken place.
He didn’t make it to the finals of the 400m at the World Championships in Daegu,South Korea. No one expected he would. But, then, no one expected him to make it past the heats either.
Oscar Pistorius proved many of his doubters wrong by qualifying in the heats and running in the semi-finals, a fantastic achievement for one who had both legs amputated as a child, and now runs with prosthetic legs.
Most athletics watchers had their eyes trained on Usain Bolt going into this championship. Close on the heels of Bolt in the “most eagerly watched” list was undoubtedly the South African “blade runner”.
Pistorius ran the semi-finals in a time of 46.19 seconds, well over a second short of his personal best, and 0.80 seconds slower than his time in the heats, and ended up last.
Yet, his has been a fantastic achievement, and an example of grit, determination and self-belief. “I’m not disabled,” he had said. “I just don’t have any legs. I don’t see myself as disabled. There’s nothing I can’t do that able-bodied athletes can do.”
And, after his loss in Daegu, he was all humility. “I’m a realist, for me to make the final I wasn’t running close to those times and I never have,” he said. “I think even if I had run faster tonight I wouldn’t have made the final, it would have taken a miracle for that to happen.”
Oscar Pistorius did not have to prove anything to himself. He believed in what he was capable of. Sure, he didn’t win. That’s fine.
By running in the heats of the 4×400 relay, Pistorius got a medal when his South African team won silver in the finals.
But, it was not the medal that mattered.
He made it to Daegu, he proved many of critics wrong. And, surely, there must be millions around the globe who would have cheered.
Just as I did.
The Olympics in London in 2012 beckons … the world will be watching … and cheering.
A 17-year old American girl has proved that “Believe” can mean more than just a one-word sentence.
Melanie Oudin (pronounced “Oo-dan”), tennis player, is ranked 70th in the WTA Tour, has a win:loss record of 10:7, and has not won a single Tour tournament in 2009. Yet, at the U.S. Open, she has reached the quarter finals after beating four Russians in a row – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva (No. 4 seed), Maria Sharapova (three-time champion) and Nadia Petrova (No. 13 seed).
And, against Petrova, Sharapova and Dementieva, she came back from a set down to eventually win, much to the delight of the home crowd in New York.
Oudin wears shoes made by Adidas, and the pink and yellow colour scheme was chosen by the player herself. And, rather than having her name marked on the shoes, as earlier planned, she chose to have the word “Believe” stamped near the heel, instead.
Adidias had stated, prior to the U.S. Open that they would not sell this shoe design to the public. However, if they follow this youngster’s credo of “Believe”, they might do well to leverage her success and make big money by marketing this design.
And, you’d better “believe” that.
There have been a few well-documented incidents in the past when prominent sportsmen have got sufficiently soused up and faced reprimands as well as angry reactions from the public. Names that come to mind include cricket players such as England’s Andrew Flintoff and Australia’s Andrew Symonds.
One would not, normally, associate a quiet (though intense) game of chess to witness this, though.
But, it did happen.
He is a part of what is referred to as “the Blitz Brothers” (his brother represents the other part), and is a Russian-born, Kazakhistan-raised, French player called Vladislav Tkachiev. Ranked 58th in the world, and known to be a rather colourful and fast-living character, Tkachiev prefers rapid-fire “blitz chess” (hence the nickname) to the more traditional slow game.
His offence this time? He showed up drunk at a Grandmaster’s tournament in Kolkatta.
Having completed only a few moves, interspersed with repeated dozing off at the table, the maverick chess player had to be finally carried off, and ended up forfeiting his match.
Many prominent players, such as British grandmaster Nigel Short, demanded that strong punishment be meted out to Tkachiev.
Being sozzled in private is a matter of personal choice. In public, and especially in a tournament, this is not.
And if this sort of thing happens in a competition, the best solution would be to have the player ejected.
Isn’t this what would happen to a drunken spectator?
Assuming that he didn’t false start, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Usain Bolt would win the 200m gold medal at the World Championships in Berlin. What no one, including the Jamaican himself or Michael Johnson whose record Bolt broke at the Beijing Olympics, was quite prepared for was what happened when the starter’s gun went off.
19.19 seconds later, Usain Bolt had broken his own record, just like he had done in the 100m two days earlier, and one is now left to wonder what this incredible Jamaican is capable of.
“This guy is Superman II” said Michael Johnson after the race.
Bronze medal winner, Wallace Spearmon, who had resigned himself to second place or worse, said, “‘Insane’ Bolt. I mean the guy is crazy. He runs crazy times and he makes it look so easy … even if I run the best turn of my life, I’m still going to be behind.”
Shawn Crawford, the gold medalist in the 200 in the 2004 Olympics, second in Beijing, and fourth in Berlin, calls Bolt a “gift” and a “blessing to the track world,” adding, “Anything that great is a blessing …. any time there’s a blessing in the vicinity, you’re close to being blessed yourself.”
Bolt has never been the best when it comes to blasting off the starting blocks, but his long stride has helped him burn up the track at a blistering pace. Running in Lane 5 in the 200m finals, he caught up with Alonso Edward in Lane 6, and Shawn Crawford in Lane 8, coming out of the bend. And the gap when he crossed the finish line was close on 6 metres – that’s huge.
It has been financially rewarding, too. His haul from the Berlin championships now stands at US$320,000 – winners of an event earn US$60,000, while world records carry a US$100,000 bonus.
“There was the space age and the computer age; now we have the ‘Bolt Age’,” wrote Elias Makorip, a reporter for the Daily Nation newspaper.
Couldn’t have put it better.
I went online last evening to check who had won the 100 metres race at the World Track and Field Championship in Berlin.
It came as no surprise that Usain Bolt had won. What staggered me was the timing – 9.58 seconds.
And, when watching videos of the race, it was apparent that the Jamaican still had plenty in reserve at the end of it all.
A time of 9.84 seconds (Asafa Powell) for the 100 metres dash would usually be considered to be a phenomenal achievement. When someone does it in 9.71 seconds (Tyson Gay), you would say that it is fantastic.
But, 9.58? That’s absolutely mind-boggling.
The 100 metres final was expected to be a contest between three men – the American, Tyson Gay, who won the gold at the previous edition, and the two Jamaicans – Bolt and Powell.
Bolt destroyed the field, and it was a no-contest.
All that remained, in less than ten seconds, was the decider between who would take silver and bronze.
Reading that the Jamaican thinks he can do it in 9.4 seconds left just one thought in the mind – that this would not come as a surprise.