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March 9, 2011 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

The 7th Inning Stretch – Sport’s Still Important

Has sport lost its importance? Has relevance abandoned it? I constantly hear people say to me “it’s just a game” while I curse profanely and repeatedly at my television or computer screen because McCullum has just thrown his wicket away again to a half-pitched long hop. Well to all you over-sized-singlet-wearing-indie-misfits, I’m telling you it is much more than just a game. Just because you only got participation medals at school for cross-country, does not mean that sport (and winning) is something to scoff at.

In this country, we constantly cram the ideal of ‘participation’ down our children’s throats. That it is less important to win than to simply play the game. Then we wonder why we haven’t won a rugby world cup in twenty-four years and currently languish at the bottom of the world’s cricket rankings, despite these being our two most popular sports. Slowly, this kind of attitude infiltrates the social consciousness and as a result we breed a nation of people who do not value winning and the nature of sport.

But try to tell this to Barcelona FC fans whose football team is not only the best club in the world (perhaps one of the greatest ever) but a mighty symbol for Catalan culture and nationalism. To them, as it is to many nations around the world, football is not “just a game”: it is religion, it is politics, it is a way of life. People live and die by their team’s success.

This is passion that is seldom seen in New Zealanders when it comes to the sports field. Not only do we seem to lack support for our own teams, but we also lack a genuine love of sport in general these days. This seems like a strange thing to say, as many consider us a sports mad country, but everywhere you look, latte drinking theatre goers are popping up where rugged rugby gents and dames once stood. Gone are the days when every man and his dog watched footy all weekend with a cold brew and abused his wife if his team didn’t win. Perhaps the term ‘good old days’ comes to mind.

But can we blame sport itself for this lack of interest? Sport is continually dumbing itself down to make itself more accessible to people with ‘games’ such as 7s rugby and T20 cricket, but the problem is that the objective of fandom in this case is to dance and socialise rather than watch. So people are not more interested in sport because of these innovations, despite the increased gate takings.

The beauty of sport does not lie in these abridged versions however. It lies in: a 5-day test match, of which the finest example was displayed in summer’s Ashes series when England drubbed the Aussies; the El Classico, that pits two of the greatest sporting and national rivals against each other where Barcelona showcased their entrancing football in a 5-0 win; or a gritty test match between the All Blacks and the French that we will only be too lucky to witness in this year’s world cup.
So shrug off your ridiculous singlet, throw away your pointed shoes (maybe lose some weight) and watch some sport. Become a fan (and not on Facebook). Because if people can still support the Chicago Cubs and Arsenal fans really believe they can win meaningful silverware this year without choking, then you can appreciate some sport this weekend too.


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  1. Matty says:

    Ha, love it. Too true about the lack of passion about sport, despite our claim of being a sports mad society.

  2. Patricia says:

    Way to go Jonathan. We used to encourage our children to win – not at all costs but it was the incentive to play. If they lost, we considered it character building and encouraged them to do better.
    On another matter, I was horrified to attend a Blues game recently and find that whenever the game stopped (for whatever reason) there had to be music playing (in case the fans were bored?) and during the actual game, there appeared on the big screen not a replay or finer point of the game, but a ‘lucky seat prize game”. Puhleese!!!

  3. Helen says:

    It *is* just a game, that’s the whole f#$@ing point. It is a game, as is politics and religion in case you haven’t noticed. Times are changing, there’s a dumbing down occurring across the board – we’re part of the affluent western culture – is this really coming as a surprise?

    There’s an overall sense of men becoming more emasculated in the culture – maybe part of your concern on a personal level?? Is the solution to that and flaccid sporting performance really going to be getting everyone riled up and angry? “People live and die by their team’s success.” Huh? Which people are these? Your future wife perhaps, after all that drunken cussing at the t.v. Hmmm, manly.

    To strive to do our best is important but it’s more important to *be* our best. Our best can be better than getting angry, lashing out at the latte drinkers and taking the joy of play away from the children. Clearly this is an issue close to your heart so quit the angry and the whining and go inspire the people with the pleasure and the joy you get from the game or have you forgotten about that?

    Peace, love and vegetable rights dude.

  4. Kay says:

    Jonathan, I am just beside myself with pleasure that you are in print… regardless of what others think of the views and opinions you express, criticism comes in both negative and positive garb, weather any flack, keep us looking at ourselves and hopefully we will take the opportunity to press the refresh button from time to time!

  5. Brian says:

    …. as John Banks said when his son came home from school with a medal for participating in the cross country “take it back to school and next time bring the gold medal home”. Maybe if you are to continue writing in this style you might need a bi – line to stop the *Helens* of this world identifing you.

  6. Julian says:

    Jono, nicely said my friend. For a few years now I’ve had the pleasure or not so much pleasure of my kids involvement in the New Zealand school system (no offence to my near Aunty), where all budding All Blacks and Silver Ferns spring from. It is the school system that teaches them that losing is okay, participating is what counts. Yes all kids can’t be Daniel Carter’s or Irene Van Dykes but why should they be stopped from striving to achieve this lofty level. News alert people the real world awaits and there is no medal for 2nd. I wonder how much better NZ would have feared at the cricket world cup if little Timmy Southee was encouraged to bowl that little bit quicker so as to scare the living daylights out of the batter or if little Ma Nonu was told to drop the shoulder to ensure that his opposition didn’t want to come near him again. NZ needs to grow up and get into the real world, you are absolutely right, overseas sports teams are very good because they don’t have PC crap shoved down their throats as kids that has caused our demise in the ranks of the great sporting nations.
    Vote National

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