Sportsmanship and Beyond

No one could accuse me of being ‘sporty’. I can enjoy watching cricket or tennis, but the only games I have taken part in with any real pleasure are croquet, which requires low cunning and dogged persistence, and badminton, which, being fast and furious, usually ended fairly quickly in my defeat. I was, however, brought up in the tradition of being ‘sporting’. With the possible exception of croquet, therefore, (see above), it was impressed upon me at an early age that one must always play fair, accept the umpire’s decision, and applaud one’s victorious opponent as one quit the field. I wonder where some of those old courtesies and rituals have gone. I have no opinion on the Serena Williams v. Naomi Osaka match, for example, other than being horrified by the crowd’s booing of Osaka and Williams’ coldness towards her. The infighting tearing the Conservative party apart has much the same effect on me, as do the Labour party’s endless shiftings on the subject of anti-semitism. It seems our politicians are only interested in securing personal advantage — and don’t mind how they achieve it. The Church is no better and often, in fact, far worse. It all looks rather gloomy. With the decline of sportsmanship has gone a decline in general standards of behaviour. All too often it’s ‘me, me, me’.

There is, however, a ray of light piercing the gloom. The media may concentrate on the unsportsmanlike shenanigans of politicians and celebrities, but we all know lots of ordinary, decent people whose kindness and care for others is manifested daily. Their deeds will never make the headlines, but theirs are the cups of cold water given in Christ’s name or out of sheer human concern that transform life for so many and, goodness, don’t we need them! The Save the Children Fund has estimated that extreme hunger could kill 600,000 children in war zones this year. There have been over a thousand instances of humanitarian aid being blocked by those fighting one another in Syria, Yemen, etc. But I suspect that ordinary, decent people will go on trying to alleviate such situations. They will give aid, brave dangerous areas and refuse to give in. They are not being sporting, they are going far beyond that. If only our politicians and celebrities would take note!

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7 thoughts on “Sportsmanship and Beyond

  1. I am by no means a mysogynist but The Williams sisters are both very aggressive and pull the race card at the drop of a hat.Why did she allow the appalling criticism of her opponent.
    no need to answer, just a rant!

  2. As a former mediocre Athlete and a reasonable Hockey Player, I was seeing sportsmanship disappear over 30 years ago, when people on the running track seemed determined to get an advantage by barging and tripping, even on longer distance events. And on the Hockey field, Sportsmanship was replaced by
    ‘gamesmanship’ and people started to try to twist the rules to their advantage.

    I became a Hockey Umpire and during my training was privileged to Umpire a Veterans team in Wiltshire, who were veteran players, all in their sixties and seventies, who if they did something they knew to be wrong, stopped, held up their hand, before I even got to blow my whistle. This spoiled me for those later competitive games, where players played on, trying to blind side the Umpire or claim innocence, despite a blatant foul against the rules. On a hockey field, raising the stick to high hitting the ball to high is pretty dangerous and in close quarters, as I know, having had my front teeth loosened and gums badly cut when a stray hockey ball struck me when playing a match against a mixed team of male and female players.

    The absence of sportsmanship seems to permeate all side of life and business and politics these days. A sad reflection on our society.

    • I often think umpires are very brave! Certainly, what you report of those older players in Wiltshire rings true with my own experience. And as my larger argument is based on behaving well, it resonates beautifully with the point I was making. Thank you.

  3. It is sad that only success is praised, as if we can always win and go on winning forever. True sportspeople who love their sport and dedicate their life to enriching lives through physical endeavour would admire someone who tried hard and did their best. They would celebrate someone who helped an injured player out even at the cost of losing a game. How we conduct ourselves in success and failure is important. How we treat others and conmsider them before our own celebration/sasdness is a measure of true strength. Manifest in sport, charitable work or simple everyday interaction with others, people are capable of great things (not just winning!)

  4. Dear Sister Catherine, well said about all those people who bravely try to help those poor souls beset by war, conflicts and disasters – the Rohinga, the Yemeni, the Sudanese, the Syrians are but the tip of those unjustly abused, starved and deprived of basic humanity.
    Praying ✝ for the lonely, deprived, disadvantaged, dispossessed as well as the disabled people in our world. Love thy neighbour has never been more needed than at present.

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