Disillusioned by sport’s dark side

For reasons yet to be wholly defined, fish has become the dish of choice on a Friday for yours truly of late. It’s certainly not linked to what were perceived as obligations of observance from times past. Though the idea of upholding at least some traditions will always contain certain appeal.

It’s basically a matter of choice. That very theme has been dominating much of the current affairs and political landscape of late, and rightly so. However, it was one area which it was resolved comment would not be passed upon, if possible. When pressed on the issue, though, and seeking to avoid being drawn too deeply into a contentious situation, I simply opined that people should be free to make whichever choices they wish with their lives. Which, when dealing with a disability, isn’t always an option.

In a far more mundane setting which seems trivial in comparison, people partaking in sport have a choice about how they conduct themselves also. No reservations are held in admitting, either, to becoming increasingly disillusioned by sport’s dark side. Worrying clouds which proliferate as a win at all costs mentality gains disturbing traction.

Thinking subjectively, of course it’s wished Meath could be winning Leinster championships every year, Dunboyne county championships and that favoured horse trainers could be mopping up all the big the big races to the exclusion of all others. That’s not how this sport stuff works though. It’s chasing what’s often the impossible dream which keeps us coming back. Also what makes the good days taste all the sweeter when the gold is harvested.

Being sportingly talented and utilising that talent successfully is a gift, you see. A realisation which – as has often been openly stated here previously – made the nefarious behaviour of both Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorious so nauseating. Not for a nanosecond is one trying to compare the two cases but they for very personal – if significantly different – reasons, reduce faith in humanity a little.

There aren’t really words to equate the South African’s heinous action. Yet, as was outlined here at the time of his trial, it was very easy to feel a sense of betrayal by a phony icon. Not only had he achieved what many of us would give the one working arm to, in competing in and furthermore excelling in top level sport. Even worse, in his personal life, he was in a place where some of us may be forever left dreaming of and he blew the lot in an act of callous evil.

Loathsome inclinations towards Armstrong are also multifaceted. From the shameful defacing of an obviously talented yet utterly fraudulent sportsman. To the disrepute his calculated actions visited upon such a sporting institution as Le Tour De France, the sheer hell he inflicted on so many of those around him in pursuance of his own ill-gotten gains.

And still, he went even lower than that. It must rank as one of the greatest acts of depravity shamefully employed in the name of sport in its own way that the disgraced cyclist would seek to cite his treatment for cancer as the reason for his cheating. Nobody can describe how it feels to have that vile thing on your horizon, directly or otherwise. He knew this, yet his selfish arrogance couldn’t sway him from such levels of what I can only call filth.

Such was the tumult of abhorrence of Armstrong’s antics, it would have been felt – or at least hoped – that it would accumulate enough to deter would be transgressors from circumnavigating the boundaries of acceptability regarding the tightrope which divides competitive ingenuity and scandalous impropriety.

Reservations towards acknowledging something which relies as arduously on external mechanics and technology as does Formula One has always precluded elevated levels of enthusiasm from taking hold. Never more so than at present, mind you. As who wins and loses is increasingly decided by goings on under the bonnet and on laptops rather than obvious displays of greatness by those doing the steering.

Factor in that what’s – curiously in my opinion – regarded as a team sport seems to count for squat if the constant bickering between Lewis Hamilton and his team mate Nico Rosberg are anything to go by and the speed fuelled circus smacks of an area best avoided.

For a long time, the comments most latterly above were applied to American Football as well. Mostly owing to the tedious monotony which tends to prevail on the grid iron. Eventually ceding to peer pressure of sorts and taking in a Super Bowl on television a few years back has led to a passing interest therein and (very) loose grasp thereof being maintained since.

From such a remove, it’s still been easy to discern that Tom Brady was fairly big business. You don’t accumulate four Super Bowl rings without possessing a high level of talent. However, the ‘Deflategate’ scandal – which centred on the supposed manipulation of footballs during the New England Patriots’ latest successful campaign – recalls a line from the Wolfe Tones ‘Streets of New York’: “Remember all is not what it seems to be”.


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