While Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft, are to be roundly condemned for attempting to cheat at cricket, we need to put this into some perspective. They have not committed murder, nor have they broken the law. They have behaved appallingly. That in itself is not a crime.
As far as I can make out, the only sin they have committed is to hold a mirror up to the face of sport and the insidious ‘winatall-costs’ ethos which pervades world sport. This is not the first, nor will it be the last, incident of cheating at sport. It happens all over the world. Cheating is a form of corruption, but deemed to be less serious than officials accepting huge amounts of money for a favourable perspective.
When a comedian interrupted a FIFA press conference, he stunned the former embattled president, Sepp Blatter, by hurling what appeared to be fistfuls of cash, and drew attention to a sweeping corruption scandal that impelled Blatter to step-down, Blatter was heard to ask: “Where is my security?” Such hubris! Blatter dismissed the prankster’s “lack of education”. Blatter was was not charged but suspended for eight years reduced to six from any FIFA participation.
I put it to you: If you were offered the opportunity to take part in a scheme guaranteed to provide you a windfall of several million dollars, would you participate, even if it involved cheating; bending the law to your advantage? Sadly, the old adage: ‘It matters not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game’, is deemed old-fashioned – a loser’s perspective on sport in the modern era. Children are taught from an early age that winning is the only thing which matters. We are told that: ‘Winners are grinners, and losers can do what they like!’ That, in a nutshell, is how most people feel. The word honourable has disappeared, completely, from our lexicon. Generosity of spirit and concern for others is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Success is measured by the accumulation of wealth, regardless of its source. There is nothing to be achieved by ceding an advantage to your opponent.
There has been comment that what occurred in South Africa is very un-Australian. Is it? I suspect not; nor is it the ugly face of Australia. It is the way of the world; a manifestation of supporters’ demanding expectations. Football riots are the consequence of frustrated fans and their anger at losing.
Why would a management team venture into the changing rooms to harangue a group of players for losing a match? Winning is not everything – at least it should not be.
The Australian management team must accept some responsibility for the South African cricket scandal, and all the other incidents which have blighted the game. Their fixation with winning is morbid, and does little to serve the sport or the players.There is no glory in second place, only disgrace and an overwhelming sense of failure; no acknowledgment of the other team having played better on the day. There is something unsettling about a player crying because they did not win. It suggests an inability to deal with life’s vicissitudes. We seem to forget, it is a game.
Once, while talking on radio with the Olympic swimmer, Daniel Kowalski, I asked him, as a joke, if he felt a failure being number two in the world! The concept of being the best at what one does is beyond me. He laughed, and said: “Yes!” In 1981, Greg Chappell ordered his younger brother, Trevor, to bowl underarm the final ball of the over. It was an appalling display of bad sportsmanship, but Australia beat New Zealand, and that was all that mattered to Greg Chappell. While it is not cheating, it is certainly high in the pantheon of ant-social behaviour. That Greg Chappell made the decision is beyond comprehension; however, even more puzzling is his brother’s decision to follow the directive.
Curiously, the late Bill Maynard, the actor who played Claude Greengrass in the internationally successful television series, Heartbeat, was asked to describe himself. He said, without a moment of hesitation: “Stand-up, and be counted!” Australian rules football has become serious business.
The AFL paid a former CEO an annual salary in excess of $2-million. Forgive me, but he ran a football club, for God’s sake! It is not splitting the atom. There are surgeons saving people’s lives who are paid a quarter of that amount. It is greed. More is better. Then we wonder: ‘Why?’ shaking our heads incredulously.
Sledging has become an acceptable part of the game. The supposed advantage over your opponent by saying the most disgraceful things about someone’s wife, sister, or mother.
They throw around words like dirty slut, whore, and f****** moll as if they were confetti. It is revolting, yet player’s think it to be clever. It is common, vulgar, and ill-bred; again, words which have passed out of the discourse and have no meaning. Their application would have the effect of hitting someone with a wet feather, such is their thoughtlessness.
Invariably, at the end of the match, television coverage focuses on the reaction of the losing team. We see club presidents with faces like thunder; fans screaming in fury and vilifying players; coaches, puce with rage and punching holes in walls and hurling abuse at players on the communication phones. Coaches are sacked if they do not win enough games. The only credo is winning – whatever it takes! It is ugly, all of it, and for the most part it is considered the ‘norm’.
All the while, children are watching this, and believing it to be acceptable behaviour. We have come to a sorry pass in our permissive society.
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.