It’s really just a problem of semantics. What we need to do is change the language that we use.
If we replace the word “sport” with the word “cheating” we will find ourselves less confused, less disappointed and less offended.
Sport has strong associations with the apparently redundant concept of “fair play”, and so needs to be brought into line with modern times, where winning, or losing in the case of the Australian cricket team, by any means possible is the order of the day.
I don’t want to present an image of a golden past in which all sport was clean, fair and above board. Sport has never been able to cast off its darker shadows.
Against notions of health, physical excellence, discipline and glorious achievement there has always been an uncomfortable association with gambling, and consequently fixing, nobbling, rigging and doping.
But we liked to think these were activities more or less confined to the nefarious zones of the underworld.
But Steve Smith! Tell me it isn’t so.
The Australian captain’s Indian indiscretion (having a quick peek at his team-mates in the dressing room to get an indication of whether he should refer an LBW decision to the third umpire, was spontaneous, and he excused himself on the grounds that it was a momentary “brain fade” and not symptomatic of his general character.
But sanctioning ball tampering. This is premeditated, and gives the strongest impression that Smith has lost his moral compass.
In India Virat Kohli stopped just short of calling the great Australian batsman a cheat. His comments now appear justified, even restrained.
By replacing the word “sport” with “cheating” we will more easily free ourselves of the gross fiction of sporting events.
By raising a glass and saying, “may the best cheat win” we can watch the Olympics, any cycling event, horse racing, most forms of football (let’s not mention FIFA) baseball, snooker, darts etc without our grasp of reality being compromised.
This means we won’t have to reconfigure our memories every year or so.
I didn’t see Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France seven times. I didn’t see Marion Jones win gold in Sydney. I didn’t even see the Melbourne Storm win premierships in 2007 and 2009. So many things I’ve missed.
Simon Bourke is a Tamworth Fairfax journalist
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