Home > General > Sportsmanship: Reality or Myth?

Sportsmanship: Reality or Myth?

Sportsmanship is a word that has really fascinated me over the years and always evoked my thoughts. But, somehow, I am still not able to fathom out what exactly it means and is it a reality in today’s sporting world or just a decorated word which stands for absolutely nothing.

This is what the dictionary says about this word:

‘Conduct and attitude considered as befitting participants in sports, especially fair play, courtesy, striving spirit, and grace in losing.’

The most discussed aspects from this definition are fair play, courtesy and grace in losing. Do we witness any of these in sports anytime? Let us find out…

We have seen in cricket the batsmen not running overthrows when the ball ricochets of their body and goes away. We have also seen some players making it a practice of ‘Walking’ when nicking the ball and not waiting for the umpire’s decision. In Football, we see the players stopping the game by kicking the ball out of play when some opposing player is lying on the ground injured. In tennis, we see players apologizing to the opponent when the ball kisses the net and falls just over it, giving them a lucky point. These and many more are ‘so called’ gestures of fair play and courtesy, more often called as ‘Playing in the Spirit of the Game’ and not just by the laws.

I call these gestures ‘so called’ simply because a glaring question arises out of all this. Have we seen or will see any of these sporting acts, when there is a Big trophy or Championship at stake, when one act of sportsmanship will result in losing the opportunity to win something you had always yearned for? Well, let us take a very recent example, which is fresh in everyone’s memory, to put forward the point

When Suarez, the Uruguayan player  saved a certain goal from Ghana by deliberately pushing the ball away with his hands at the goal-line in the dying seconds of the quarter-final match of the FIFA World Cup 2010, the goal which would have put Ghana into the semis and Uruguay out of the tournament, where did all the sportsmanship go at that moment? Was this Suarez act ‘Fair Play’? No. Did Suarez cheat? No again. Was this act justified in the circumstances? Yes, definitely.

The only thought Suarez had in his mind was to give his team a chance to stay in the match, for which he was willing to get himself sent off with a red card and miss the next match (a probable semifinal) too. What Suarez did was perfectly within the laws of the game. He got punished with a red card for his offense and Ghana was awarded a penalty. The fact that Ghana missed the penalty and lost in the penalty shoot-out that followed is not Suarez’s fault. Would any other footballer have reacted differently than Suarez in the circumstances? Most Probably, No.

No, I am not advocating or defending Suarez here. I am only trying to say that when the stakes are high, when a sportsperson is competing for the trophy which he has always dreamt for, when he has put his heart and soul waiting for the opportunity, the only thing which matters for him is how to ‘WIN THE GAME’. All talks of Sportsmanship and all the glorified stuff goes out of the window and is rendered insignificant.

Just imagine one more situation. Imagine India playing the Cricket World Cup Final in 2011 in Mumbai, which may very well happen to be a reality, come April 2, 2011. Suppose India needs 2 runs of the last ball to win the World Cup. The striker hits the ball and starts running. The fielder picks up the ball, has a throw at the stumps, the ball misses the stumps, hits the striker’s body and goes away from the fielder, providing the opportunity for India to run the overthrow and win the World Cup which has always been our dream. Now tell me, would India not run the overthrow and think about Sportsmanship?

Well, I think I don’t need to tell the answer. We all know what India, or for that matter any other team, would do in such a situation. In fact, they would be called fools if they do anything else.

And this is where I end this debate on Sportsmanship. Now, you decide whether it is a Reality or Just a Glorified Myth?

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Categories: General
  1. Anoop Saxena
    July 15, 2010 at 1:28 am

    Nice write up. You may want to look up Courtney Walsh and sportsmanship though :)…

  2. July 15, 2010 at 1:31 am

    I was abstaining from pointing this out–there can’t be a better classical example for sportsmanship.

  3. Vyom Gupta
    July 15, 2010 at 1:55 am

    yaa, I agree with the point… But honestly, I can hardly see anything like that happening again in today’s environment.. There will always be exceptions, there will always be some people who will stick to their guns no matter what the situation.. But then, everything has exceptions..

    Normally, 99.99% of the players would not think of sportsmanship in situations similar to those I have described in the article.. Because there is too much to lose and too much at stake. That is my belief…

    Anyways this is an article which is sure to create controversies.. That is the beauty of this article. 🙂

  4. raju gupta
    July 15, 2010 at 8:39 am

    nice article. very practical aspects deliberated well. spirit of winning a game is definitely more intense than spirit of that sportsman ship.winning is intoxicating and spirit of sportsmanship may not be strong enough to effect such intoxication. the instances quoted in your write up are just right to drive the point through.
    well written really. keep it up. god bless

  5. Mahesh Dutt
    July 15, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I guess, the moment you agree to the exceptions, then there remains nothing much to say because each act of sportsmanship would fall in category of “exception” and non confirming act as rule. Goodness was never deccided on democratic or demographic basis, as to how many do behave nicely or how many nice people live at all.
    If we take only the popular example of cricket as you pointed out, think the kind of bashing Trevor Chappel received after bowling underarm and despite Aussies willing that game, no one, even once who did and participated in it, ever want to talk about it. Or with Anil Kumble as captain in Australia says “only one team played with the spirit of the game”, remember how he was lauded and respected all across and Pointing did not find a place to hide, whereas Indian team won accolades from one and sundry. This should be fresh in people’s mind. But if you go back a bit with the logic of “something big at stake”, think of golden jubilee test match between India and England in Mumbai and with five wickets down for a paltry score England with Mike Brearley as captain, was in tatters. Vishy was leading India then and fielding in slips, when the new batsman Ian Botham missed and ball was caught, was given out. He was called after Vishy talked to the umpire and Botham slammed a century, India lost a match it had very much in hand.
    You will always have good and bad people, good and bad behaviour. People change their behavious, at times even due to circumstance. Remember Sunny, known for walking but after having been tormented by Shakur Rana in Pakistan trip in 1978, did not budge when he was caught behind off Sarfaraz by Wasim Bari and Sunny said I after the match that yes i did it because I was cheated by them many times in the series…Buttons of human mind, Vyom, are difficult to find.

  6. Vyom Gupta
    July 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Well, points very nicely put…

    This debate is never going to end, will it? Its such a tricky topic indeed… 🙂

    I expected such response to this article…

  7. mg
    July 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I think sportsmanship is a very personal thing. You either have it or you don’t. There is no way that you can drill it down into a person. It is a part of one’s character. So what Suarez did was an extension of his character. I am not sure how any other player in his place would have behaved. As far as winning and desperation is concerned, I think that if you are hungry and desperate enough, you don’t need a moment like that to win and no, even if the batsmen do run for that last run, it does not make them less sportsman because they had a chance to win and they won! Sportsmanship includes not just fair play but also making use of opportunities and relishing the victory.

  8. vyom
    July 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    another interesting comment… 🙂 It brings out another aspect of the word ‘Sportsmanship’

    thanks for visiting and commenting… Keep visiting 🙂

  9. August 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    The problem arises, in my opinion, when people keep things over the sport.

    these things could be anything: self, clubs, money or even country. Lets face it, it is sport that brings a Sachin, or Viru or Ponting or Sanga this kind of glory. It is not their individual selves or India, Australia and Sri Lanka that bring them glory, it is the sport.

    The problem is that people keep country over sport among other things. This was highlighted in the Suarez episode, where he became an overnight hero in Uruguay!

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