Not fun any more

It is strange how the words sport, game, play, which in the dictionaries are associated with fun and frolic, have more and more lost their original meanings.

The sledging – pioneered and perfected by Australia – which takes place in international cricket as a matter of course is a good example of the brutal bad manners, the pure nastiness, that rules in much of sport these days. In a recent Test match the Australian captain, Michal Clarke, jeers at and provokes England’s No 11 batsman and leading fast bowler, James Anderson, and tells him to look out because they are going to break his arm and the only thing found wrong about this is that Clarke was caught saying it for the listening audience to hear, the taunt itself dismissed as mere banter by both sides. And I have recently read that in all sport nowadays – basketball, ice hockey, NFL football and soccer (“the beautiful game” no less) to name a few – players readily admit that the equivalent of sledging at its crudest is commonplace and sometimes descends into actual, serious personal threats of violence. But this is covered up by players themselves, coaches and the authorities as simply playing the game hard and apparently comes within acceptable limits and is even viewed as spicing up the contest and increasing spectator interest. In ancient Rome no doubt gladiators in the arena sledged before they killed but we haven’t quite got there yet – but, after all, why not, if the gate money increases?

Sport has become a very serious business. At the highest level games are no longer associated with fun and relaxation. The physical workload that a man undertakes to become a champion is as hard as that of any labourer in the field or mine worker in the depths of the earth. Sport at the top is a business, a profession, a career, a way of life, a hard and daily occupation, a  …..To continue reading, login or subscribe now.

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