The decline of sportsmanship


THE PHENOMENAL RISE of spectator sports played by an army of professional sportsmen has changed the nature of the activity – from simple enjoyment of the game to an obsession for winning. The Olympic motto of going “faster, higher & stronger” seems paramount with a premium on winning medals. To quote a well-known American football coach, “Winning is not everything; it is the only thing!”

It is, therefore, not surprising that well-known sportsmen have been caught ingesting performance-enhancing drugs to improve their performance. Being paid enormous salaries they have to “perform”, although the consequences of being detected have been painful.

Recent incidents between schools remind us that we have strayed from the chief purpose of sporting activity – to enjoy playing the game while building physical fitness and forming lasting friendships, and where winning and losing are relatively minor considerations. The days when players shook hands even after a bruising match seem to be over.

We can accept this state of affairs philosophically, and say that this is a natural human development; or we may question the shift to a value system that accepts no losers.

In a world that is obsessed with success and looks down at failure in everything from business to education, from sports to entertainment, it may be time to reflect on its wider implications for human life. If we want to win at all costs, and we “take no prisoners”, then the cost may be too high and the law of the jungle may have taken over. In this scenario, can we honestly say that mankind is truly “civilised”?

More to the point, can we honestly claim to live a Christian life when our psychological well-being depends on always winning, whatever the cost? Is there really no room for losers? Perhaps it is time we took a closer look at our attitudes towards a perennial problem before we become inured to the tyranny
of winning.