Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Fair play's my game

Published:Tuesday | January 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Wright View - Dr Paul Wright

I look forward to the last weekend of January every year, as it is the usual weekend when the Super Bowl is played.

For those who pretend not to know, the Super Bowl is the culmination of four months of American-style 'football', when the top two teams from opposing franchises play for "everything".

The American version of football is an offshoot of the English-invented rugby, but the Americans have taken the game to a much higher level, where modern American football is an amalgamation of brains, tactics and the ability to make split-second decisions (that work), brute strength and near abnormal athleticism.

It takes some time to understand the rules and tactics (if you are not a born American), but the spectacle of the game itself is worth the time taken to LEARN the sport. As can be expected with an American-controlled sport, the winners are all 'world champions', even if they (the Americans) are the only ones playing the game and the economics of participation and victory, simply is mind-boggling, when compared to the economics of participation and winning in non-sporting activities of life. So this weekend is special for ALL lovers of American football.

Tainted By Allegations

This weekend, however, has been tainted by allegations of underhand (illegal) activities by one of the teams down to participate on Sunday. The New England Patriots, coached by Bill Belichek and led by quarterback Tom Brady, have been accused of tampering with the football used during the Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

So far, nothing has been proven and the two principals, coach and quarterback have denied any wrongdoing. But questions and insinuations re the integrity of the entire team are disconcerting.

I will be cheering for the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday. The idea of victory by any means necessary seems to be embedded in the minds of many, if not most of the commentators, fans and players of sports.

The well-worn maxims of 'winning is not everything' and 'to compete is to succeed' seem to be so old-fashioned nowadays that illegality and unfairness are taught to our children. Who can forget an incident recently when a schoolboy used his hand to score a goal in an important schoolboy football final?

The gist of the post-match commentary by some, who I expected should know better, is that, if the referee did not see it, then it was not cheating.

Slow-motion Replay

Similarly, the practice in cricket of refusing to walk when the batsman KNOWS that he is out, has become so entrenched in the game that those who 'walk' when they KNOW that they are out are severely criticised; and those who get away with downright dishonesty (à la Chris Broad) and have their activities highlighted in slow-motion replay, have their critics labelled as being rude and disrespectful.

Athletes who take substances that are sold as giving them the 'edge' over their opponents, are 'shocked and distraught' when drug tests reveal that the supplement that they took to give them the 'edge' did in fact give them the 'edge' (they won), but contained banned substances.

That is when the circus comes to town, with respected scientists and other luminaries postulating about contamination of blood or urine by the sweat of a passerby, or the contents of water used to wash ones hands before the sample was collected (I kid you not!).

I long for the day when those caught breaking the rules (and their support staff) would simply put their hand in the air and say: "Yes, I took it!"

I am totally against the use of illegal or immoral tactics - actions in sport and life - but I have a great respect for those who, when caught, say: "Yes, I took it," or "Yes, I did it."