sporting blues

Posted on January 14, 2008

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It is really getting harder to be a sports fan everyday.

Leave aside the usual doping scandals in the cycling world, the constant stream of suspicion about NFL players and the explosive report by former Senate majority leader George Mitchell about baseball and steroids, the news from the sporting world just continues to depress.

The once golden girl in track and field, Marion Jones, has just been made an example, slapped with a six-month prison sentence, on top of having to return the five medals she had received at the Sydney Olympics, after being convicted of lying to investigators about her use of steroids.

Another former golden girl, Martina Hingis, this time in the tennis courts, was banned from the sport for two years for having found to have consumed cocaine during last year’s Wimbledon tournament. The ban would effectively end any comeback hopes the Swiss tennis player had harbored, as she would be 30 by the time the ban is lifted.

Still staying on tennis, a sport that has usually enjoyed a gentleman’s reputation, it is under siege for the match-fixing scandal that has recently rocked it.

Is there no true sportsmanship anymore? Are there no longer champions who got there by virtue of talent, hard work and sacrifice? Or are we even deluded to think that sport hasn’t always operated under a cloud of illegal performance-enhancing substances or practices anyway?

Sometimes I wonder if we, the audience, are to be blamed, for pushing the athletes (if they could still be called that) towards take illegal performance-enhancing drugs. As we clamor for better results, more superhuman feats, records to tumble, while elevating them onto such ridiculously unrealistic pedestals and showering them with so much wealth and fame, it might have made cheating seem almost logical, and necessary, for athletes.

Perhaps we should stop pretending that the so-called athletes are really powered on their own talent and training and accept that this is all a farce.

So why not adopt a new attitude towards sport, say, like the fans of World Wrestling Entertainment seem to have towards their pursuit? If we stopped pretending that the outcome has yet to be determined, we could then act accordingly – roaring our approval when the designated “good guys” win and curse the “bad guys”. We could still choose our favorites to root for among the good guys, or even from the bad guys, if one is so inclined. If sport were that way, everybody would be in the loop. There would be no nasty surprises. Nobody would feel betrayed or even devastated if his favorite “athlete” turns out to be a steroid-fueled sham, as everyone is expecting that anyway, and knows that everything is pretty much fixed, just like in wrestling. Wouldn’t that make being a sports fan so much simpler?

Kids could be saved the heartache and disappointment of seeing their sports heroes fall from grace, if parents would only tell them upfront that all the sport that they are watching is pretty much entertainment, rather than a real competition. Just like conditioning children to understand that TV shows and movies are scripted and the people in them aren’t real characters, parents and teachers could help kids out by always including a similar disclaimer when it comes to sporting events.

So much fanfare is staged for the big sporting events. The grandmother of them all, the Olympics, is just around the corner. Much nationalistic fervor would be stirred when one’s own takes the gold and the national anthem is sounded to the raising of the winner’s national flag. This, despite the Olympics’ long history of manipulation, drugs and scandal.

When will we ever learn?

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Posted in: drugs, sports