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Sportsmanship? by San Cassimally
 

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  • A misnomer is a wrong or inaccurate use of a word. An eminent example is the word sportsmanship. This is supposed to be the admirable or generous behaviour pattern that one regularly witnesses on a sporting arena. I have participated in and attended many sports ever since I could walk, and I can only remember witnessing so-called sportsmanship just once.
    The football field is notorious for all manners of skulduggery. Shirt-pulling is the mildest that one can see. Players lunge at their opponents, and accidentally on purpose kick them on the shins, often despatching them to hospital and putting them out of action for more than six months. Elbows are rib-seeking missiles. One of the commonest sights in a match is the innocent face of the player who has just felled his opponent to the ground raising both hands to explain to referees and crowd that it was in fact the other fellow who had attacked him. You would expect to see divers operate in a swimming pool, but think again. The best place to see diving is in the box. The attacking forward sees a defender coming towards him and throws himself on the ground, his face contorted in pain, striving to put the two pieces of his broken leg together, in an attempt at earning a free kick or a penalty. And if possible to get the other chap a Yellow or a Red card. The aim of the match is victory by means fair or foul. Players have been instructed by their coaches to win the game, and not to worry about whether they play beautifully or fairly. Too much is at stake to worry about niceties. Whenever the ball goes out of play, two players on opposite sides each claim that the ball hit the other chap’s body last, making him the beneficiary of the throw-in. An important rule of the game is only use your hand if you’re sure the umpire won’t catch you. If the ball hovers over the goal line, eleven players will swear that it did not cross the line, and eleven will swear that it did.
    Tennis is a genteel game, and one might think that it is not too easy to cheat. Granted, if one discards doping, but the single biggest hypocritical act on a sports field takes place on the tennis court. When the ball hits the net before landing in the opponent’s side, thus earning hitter a point, he or she finds it necessary to raise his or her hands in a simulacrum of apology, as if to say sorry. He or she is far from sorry - a point has been earned. If it was true that he/ she was sorry, then they should wilfully lose the next point to make good the unfair point.
    No game has generated more metaphors for cleanliness and so-called sportsmanship than cricket. Somebody acting unfairly is told, "it’s not cricket." Someone who reacts with great fairness "plays a straight bat." It is the only game where practitioners can tamper with the ball to gain an unfair advantage. In no other game is the art of sledging so insidious. Where concentration is of the essence when you have to bowl or bat, insulting your opponent can seriously put him off track. And I am saying nothing about match-fixing.
    Baseball has been notorious for two main violations: use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, and the doctoring of bats, called corking. And I don't think ice-hockey needs fingers pointed at its misdemeanours.
    Sports are competitive activities and everyone wants to win, so it is the last place where one should expect sporting behaviour so-called. One wonders if the notion of sportsmanship was an ironical reflection.

    I did however once see two long distance runners running level with each other spontaneously reaching out to each other and passing the finishing line hand in hand. A unique happening.

    I think the caption in the photograph I took in Hyderabad illustrates my stance.
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