I’m not a huge sports person. I’m not anti-sport; it’s just not a really big deal to me.
The first sporting award I remember receiving is a third place ribbon for the only 100m sprint I ever ran. It was in Grade 7, at the ripe old age of 12 at our school sports carnival. I didn’t want to race but we were short on runners and so I made up the numbers. My victory was immediately thrown into controversy as the parents of the kid who came fourth lodged a protest. My win was upheld though and I walked away with a little green and gold ribbon as a momento.
I sometimes wonder whether I might have been a more competitive sportsman if that protest had never occurred. It’s interesting sometimes to think about how some of the smallest things can have such a dramatic impact. If you’re ever interested, have a read of a book by Erik Durschmied titled “The Hinge Factor – How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History“. But I’m getting off track.
Athletically I was an underachiever. During high school when we had sports day I chose Table Tennis, Ten Pin Bowling and Skating and over the years I’ve only really dabbled in sport. I’ve got two trophies on my bookshelves; one for mixed B reserve grade volleyball and one for mixed C netball. Yeah, I said netball. I still don’t know the rules. To me, sport has always been about the enjoyment of activity and giving something your best rather than the unadulterated desire to win.
Healthy competition is a perfectly normal part of life and in sport it is commonplace. I totally get that professional competition is highly exciting and rewarding for competitiors and audiences alike. What I don’t understand though is why some amateur sportsmen and women can be so viciously competitive. And when I say amateur, I’m not referring to those committed and admirable athletes who strive to represent their country in their chosen field of sporting excellence. I’m talking about those people who play casually once or twice a week at a local field; not even necessarily for a local club.
When I played volleyball, netball and Oztag I bore witness to some very unprofessional competitiveness and even now it shakes the very foundations of my appreciation for casual sport. When I played volleyball, teams substituted players from their A grade squad into the B grade teams in an attempt to secure victory. In Oztag it was a case of guys who really had the potential to play proper football (at least semi-professionally) owning basically everyone on the field.
If these were state or country-level competitions I’d have no issue with teams wanting to have the very best players available and I’d accept that at an elite level there will always be a degree of attitude that must be accepted from an opponent. However, these games were your run-of-the-mill local gatherings, run by volunteers and people who were interested in getting together for a bit of a run around.
Seriously. If you want to be an athlete, by all means you have my support. Do your best, train and I really hope you earn a place on the national team. I will personally cheer when you compete, even if you don’t win the trophy or a medal. However, when you compete at a local level only, driven by the insane notion that beating me and/or my team in a casual game of anything makes you some kind of sporting hero, please remember this: I almost didn’t come third in a primary school sprint. Besting me at sport is like breathing – everyone can do it.
It is highly likely that I don’t know the rules. Also, I’m not interested in beating you at a game that is not going to advance my athletic career. I’m here just to get some exercise, be with my friends and have some fun. Go ahead and take the ball. Score a goal and parade around the pitch. I’m no Jordan, Pele or Gretzky. You’re not proving to me that you’re a superstar. You’re just demonstrating the fact that you’re a douche bag.
Final score: Me – 1; Douche Bag – 0