Sport has always been part and parcel of our daily lives. Whether we like it or loathe it we all have our say, the good, the bad and almost everyone has a comment on the ugly. Maybe there is a naivety when we are younger and look at our icons that we imagine that they are what they seem. We buy the picture that is sold to us more times than often when the simple reality is it isn’t what it seems.
At one time sport was all about the taking part. The Olympic Games typified that more than anything but with the age of television and mass sponsorship it changed. Taking part was no longer important and winning was everything. Everyone had to be number one, nothing for second; those that were left behind had to find a way to get back up the ladder and if it meant bending the rules a bit then so be it. It just became all about reaching the top, getting the big sponsorship deal and living the dream.
The Olympics was the one body that you would have expected to save sport worldwide, especially what it is supposed to stand for. It was said in ancient Greece that athletes competed for the honour and not for material wealth. That’s why those that did win at the games in those times were awarded an olive wreath. It was no disgrace to be second or even last as long as you competed with honour.
Now sportsmanship, honour, and the Olympic dream are one liners for slick advertising firms. The games, like other sport, have been destroyed by big business and the world of money. Corruption is rank throughout many of the top sporting organisations of the world; under the counter deals are the norm, huge amounts of money dictate the direction of the sport involved. Drug scandals are often now just passed off as ‘well, they’re all at it’.
It no longer surprises anyone and the games no longer hold the stature that they once had. Many of the scandals are covered up so as not to lose the huge deals with some of the biggest companies in the world.
It could be said that much of what has happened to the Olympics is their own fault. Letting the likes of hugely paid stars from the world of tennis, golf, football and cycling into the games has undermined many of the values that the games were all about. They were allowed access to the games because the sponsors dictated it. Would winning a gold medal be the same as winning one of the majors in golf or one of the grand slam titles in tennis and you’re not going to tell me that winning a gold medal in Brazil would be better than winning the Tour de France in cycling.
The television companies or the spin gurus might sell it to us in the media that way but you can be assured that it is not the case. As much as you want to believe in sport and the honesty of those taking part it has become all too questionable. Maybe it is the cynic in me but it is hard to buy any of the bullshit any more. If one of the big stars of the Olympics were caught doping or using something that they shouldn’t, would we be told? If something like that happened it would be the final nail in the coffin and that would end the Olympics as we know it. So it’s hard to have any confidence in that any of it is clean.
Other sports have been hit hard but it has mostly centred around corruption or where major competitions are held and it least the people taking part in those games are innocent to a point but can we be really sure, to what lengths would any organisation, sporting or otherwise, go to make sure their image would not be tarnished. Would they stop at nothing in order to protect themselves from losing major sponsorship deals or destroying the image of their sport?
The idea of winning is all that matters any more; the taking part is considered an excuse not to give the commitment that’s required. We see it every day. County football or hurling, even underage sport. Listen to what is being shouted at youngsters who are just doing their best. Even just enjoying being along and playing with their friends, not acceptable any more. We want everyone to be the best they can be and anything short of that is failure.
Is that going to be the legacy of this generation? Forget about your pastime or taking part for the fun of it or the health benefit; do it because you want to be the best. You do it because you want to be a winner and to hell with anything or anybody that stands in your way. You take whatever gives you the edge and to hell with the circumstances in the future. Is that what we want to leave to the next generation? Why do we need to push so hard? What’s wrong with just doing it because of the enjoyment? What’s wrong with not wanting to go to all sorts to be the best? It’s hard to fathom. “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant,” Robert Louis Stevenson.
Best of luck to the county minors in their All-Ireland semi-final against Galway on Sunday.