Friday, August 25, 2006
Let’s Get Physical – Update
The second half of Murray’s article deals with the sporting behaviour of the Australian team, by comparison with some of the more successful nations at the event. Although I take issue with his squeaky-clean portrayal of the Brazilians (after all, Les was in Munich to see the Brazil v. Australia game, didn’t he find a few of the Brazilian tumbles a tad, erm, egregious?), the basic thrust of his argument is valid.
In my opinion, he is on less firm ground when he generalizes the desire to win in gentlemanly fashion to the Australian sporting public in general. I don’t believe this is the case, and it is perhaps because Australia occupies such an impressively high rank in most sporting codes that we are prepared to make excuses for our own athletes’ reprehensible behaviour at times, while damning the foreigners without trial.
Take the case of international cricket. The vastly successful Australian team has been at the top of the cricketing tree for some considerable time, and the reflected glory that the team bestows has resulted in a good deal of casuistry in recent times.
Countless excuses were offered for the foolish, selfish involvement with sub-continental bookies on the part of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne; the other players involved were unequivocally lambasted. Likewise, after the first Muralitharan “incident”, foreign bowlers with suspect actions were regularly put under the microscope by the Australian media and fans, while Brett Lee’s blatantly illegal bouncers tended to escape notice.
Another brief point: it was a commonplace in the era before neutral umpires to state that the sub-continental umps were crooked beyond belief. Biased they doubtless were, but some Australian umpires were little better in terms of favouring their own – a fact that was never admitted in the Australian media.
The match which most directly led to the use of neutral umpires, in fact, was the disgraceful final test of the Australia v. South Africa series in 1993/94, in which the South Africans suffered some ludicrous LBW decisions at the hands of Darrell Hair (yes, the same fellow who’s been in the news recently) and Terry Prue.
Perhaps it is simply the case that when a national team has reached the pinnacle of any sport, their fans become even more jealously protective of the players. I have found that Australian football fans are, on the whole, more even-handed than the passionate followers of other sports in this country. Even among those who were furious at the manner of Australia’s exit from the World Cup (and that makes about 99.9%), there were plenty who were prepared to admit that Marco Materazzi’s earlier dismissal was somewhat harsh – and that Marco Bresciano’s fall was somewhat theatrical.
Yes, Australian footballers and football fans do tend to be more ethical and fair-minded than those of some other nations. But let's not pretend that this is a universal trend in Australian sport. It isn't.
Sorry, mikey, I don't agree. I don't think the handful of incidences you've mentioned which have occurred in cricket (Waugh discussing the weather with an Indian bookie?, Lee bowling some bouncers and some ordinary LBW decisions in '94) build much of a case to back that up.
I'd say that 'ethics and fair play' are very central to most Australian sportspersons' mindsets, and highly regarded by Australian fans.
I'd say it very well is a universal trend in Australian sport, firmly entrenched in our culture.
I fully agree with Les on this one. Well, apart from that Brazil bit. :-)
I only used cricket as an example because I thought there were enough solid examples to use there and not get too long-winded about things, but if you want more:
- Australians getting done for drugs in sport always being excused in some way or another,
- Hewitt's appalling gamesmanship being considered by most Oz fans a form of self-encouragement, when if a Yank did that sort of thing he would be written off as an unsporting egomaniac,
- The general level of violence in rugby league. Does the regularity of eye-gouging, king hits and elbows to the ribs get the fans up in arms against their players/club, rather than the tribunal that hands down the punishments? Hardly ever.
Sorry, I just don't believe there's more of a culture of sportsmanship here than in other countries with roughly our level of civilisation and standard of living (factors which always go hand in hand with respect for rules).
You agreed with me about the hypocrisy of the fans booing the Kuwaitis the other night after North went down like a sack of spuds...what conclusions would an outsider draw from that incident?
Anytime someone non-Australian breaks a swimming record (Dutch, Chinese, German) the suspicion of drugs is cast out - sometimes directly by the Aussie athletes. When "our" swimmers do it, the stories of how they have sacrificed half their lives training hard are prominent. Same thing with cyclicst...
Keep up the good work.
Back of the Net
Yeah, it's in the area of drugs particularly that I feel the occasional hypocrisy arises.
Just quickly though;
Hewitt IS widely regarded in this country as a king sized w**ker, IMHO. He was once loudly boo-ed by an Aussie-packed home arena for acting like a little pratt.
But really, what does he do that's so bad btw? He doesn't throw rackets, be rude to ball boys, abuse umpires or spit his dummy...he yells "c'mon" on big points. I still don't see what the big deal is. He's hardly lambasted for it in the world press.
But as Les correctly alluded to Mikey, this country would invite Pat Rafter to a BBQ before they invited Lleyton.
I don't agree with the drug cheating thing either. I certainly don't agree with BOTN's assertion that, "Anytime someone non-Australian breaks a swimming record (Dutch, Chinese, German) the suspicion of drugs is cast out - sometimes directly by the Aussie athletes."
C'mon, that's simply not true. Well maybe the Chinese, but the entire swimming world would get sus to them because they were so badly and blatantly busted.
But your Rugby League point is a fair one. I still think eye gouging and dirty play is indeed viewed in a very bad light out there in the burbs, but the acceptance for sheer violence (which is central to the game) is a tad strange. In a social construct it is indeed quite hypocritical, but overtly dirty players like Hopoate are still widely hated. There's a clear distinction between tough and dirty in RL.
Mikey: "You agreed with me about the hypocrisy of the fans booing the Kuwaitis the other night after North went down like a sack of spuds...what conclusions would an outsider draw from that incident?"
Ah, yes, but whether a ball should be kicked out when an opposing player goes down is a contentious issue atm, but it's still seen as the "gentlemanly" thing to do across the globe and widely practiced. I can understand why the crowd boo-ed - it would have happened anywhere IMO - I just happen to disagree with the idea of kicking a ball out because it is so open to abuse, and because I want to see it eradicated I strongly disagree with (our own) crowds still encouraging it.
Look, I'm not trying to say Australia are saintly or unique, worldleaders in the world of sports in this regard, but I truly do believe there is a culture of sportsmanship and fair play which is quite highly valued. I think there is a link between our hatred of diving and play acting antics - perhaps moreso than some other nations - in football, and our national sporting mindset. Perhaps it's born more out of a form of "toughness" and "bravado", but it seriously doesn't wash in Australia, any more than eye gouging does.
I still agree with Les' overall point. And I don't really agree with him often so please allow me the indulgence, this time. ;-)
He does his absolute level best to intimidate officials and he's done it from a very early age. It's quite calculated.
He's hardly the only one to do it, BTW.
...But as Les correctly alluded to Mikey, this country would invite Pat Rafter to a BBQ before they invited Lleyton....
Sure, but what does that prove? I'm sure most Irishmen would rather have Niall Quinn at their table at the pub than Roy Keane. Preferring the "nice guys" is a pretty universal trait in most civilised countries, I would've thought.
I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one, Subby. I just haven't seen any genuine evidence over the years to back up the regular statements that the Oz sporting culture enshrines fairness more than most others (well, more than most other advanced Western countries).
...And I don't really agree with [Les] often so please allow me the indulgence, this time. ;-)...
Dunno if I can allow that, TBH. You might be agreeing with Fozzie next. ;-)
i remember reading about justin langer lambasting the english supporters for shouting 'no ball' to brett lee a few summers ago...yet we hear nothing about the treatment murali receives whenever he comes here.
Personally i think Rugby League out classes union by far, though being a Wakefield Wildcats fan makes me a little biased! However i do admit that internationally Rugby League needs some work so Rugby Union has that on its side but what about the game itself?
It seems that Rugby Union is just a collection of dog piles most of the time followed by short lived runs which either
involve running straight into the other teams players or scoring the odd try, WHY!? In Rugby League I can see the point in running straight into your opponent as you have to make some ground only having six tackles to do it but in Rugby Union, its just a way off losing the ball! Fools!
I mean I like doing a little Rugby League Betting every other week but When it comes to Rugby Union, its just boring! KICK! THERE INFRONT! KICK! THERE BEHIND!! KICK THERE INFRONT AGAIN!!! OH NO WAIT!! THERE BEHIND AGAIN! RUN THE DAMN BALL!!!!
Anyway I’ll stop my rant here and let someone else say what they think!