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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Survival of the Fittest

Anyone catch South Park on C4 last night? (South Park is part of my sad “Wednesday TV night”: 7-8 Simpsons; 8.30-9.30 Lost; 9.30-10 South Park). It may have been a repeat, I missed nearly all of the last few seasons, but it was nice and semi-topical.
One of the disabled kids, Jimmy, was taking steroids to win at the Special Olympics. Giving out the awards were Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, all MLB players who have taken steroids. I love South Park.

But South Park is just a tool to segue to what I want to talk about: Cheating in sport.
The want of sports-people to take steroids or take other performance enhancing measures must be quite high in professional-level sport. After all this is their career. How many of you “desk jockeys” have taken coffee (or a similar sugar/caffeine beverage) to keep going at your peak. Sports-people are not just trying to finish, they need to win otherwise they might not eat next week. Ok, maybe it’s not THAT bad.

Still History tends to forget second (and third) place, but it always remembers first. Ironically it also remembers cheats. How many of you thought of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson? What about the Greek sprinters, Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, from the last Olympics? A few of you may have even thought instantly of baseball player Barry Bonds or track and field athlete Marion Jones. How many of you thought about recent Olympic gymnast Paul Hamm?

Paul Hamm is the type of cheat I hate the most. He won gold in the men’s all-around gymnastics event in what the Washington Post described as a “stunning comeback” over South Korean Kim Dae Eun. Thing is though, there was an officiating error. South Korean gymnast Yang Tae-young, who deserved the gold medal, was accidentally docked 0.1points and instead awarded (shameful) bronze. The South Koreans didn’t protest in time (perhaps because they were at the Olympics and assumed that officials would be up to standard) and so the International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) hands were tied even thought they ruled that the gold should go to Yang. The IOC president Jacques Rogge refused to give Yang a medal and so the president of FIG wrote to Hamm saying basically “Hey, why don’t you do the big thing and swap medals with this guy?” Hamm and the US Olympic Committee said “piss off” (I’m paraphrasing). Yang in the end got a gold medal but as far as I know he is not recorded as winning the event. The BBC story (linked to above) about this says:

“The tug-of-war over the medal has overshadowed Hamm's performance, one of the
greatest comebacks in gymnastics' history.”

No it hasn’t. It highlighted it. He had a great comeback and came second. But what it really showed is a poor sportsman. He was fairly beaten, but once he had his hands on that “precious” like hell he was going to throw it into Mount Doom. Um, or something like that. Basically be a good sport in anything that you do, that’s my message. Now Paul Hamm will only be remembered for not relinquishing a gold that wasn’t really his.

Last week, oh by the way this is a parallel topic, I was cruising through the channels and caught TV One’s Sports Hour. According to host Andrew Saville:

"We don't want to fill the show with patsy answers and sporting fluff; but
actually opinion that will fire up sports fans."

"I'm looking forward to talking to sports people who aren't afraid to express an
honest opinion and who are not afraid of upsetting the odd person"
They sure aren’t. So, instead of getting people who can offer intelligent commentary on sports issues, they have Simon Doull and (on the night I caught it) Matthew Ridge.


The topic on the night in question was “why can’t we beat Australia in the cricket?” My answers were:
  • because they are bloody good;
  • it’s their national sport;
  • their population pool is enormous compared to ours;
  • they put sh*tloads of money into developing grass roots players and competition etc.

i.e. the same reasons we were so damn good at rugby before everyone learned how we did it. The answer from the expert panel on Sports Hour:

  • the Australians have a winning attitude that we don’t teach our kids at school, we just teach our kids that simply competing is enough


Apparently we lose to international teams simply because we don’t instil aggressive competitiveness into our children at an early stage. So, that would be why our NZ Women’s golf team just beat Australia in the Tasman Cup? (Also note in that article that Kiwis Mathew Holten and Brad Iles have won the Australian Foursomes Championship in Victoria). Or why we have top cyclists, canoeists, rowers, multi-sportsmen and even Indy-car drivers? Insert Tui slogan.

Although this Australian attitude to winning, is exactly the reason why Australia, almost as an entire nation, ripped apart poor Sally Robbins. Who is Sally Robbins? You may remember her better by the name given to her in the Aussie media: “Lay Down Sally”. She only helped get them to the finals of the women’s eight rowing finals and after giving her all collapsed in the boat. Cathy Freeman said she was “almost un-Australian”. See what I mean.

It’s just a game for goodness sake! If you don’t teach kids that at school where else will they learn it? They weren’t even playing for money and all the rowers got a nice reception when they got home (well everyone except Sally who was slapped and chased by her team mates, see above link).

I’ve gone a little off-topic and it’s going to take a lot to get back so I might just leave it there.

ps.[I remembered yesterday that Mark Wahlberg has already paid homage to the Transformers movie in his 1997 movie Boogie Nights. In that film he tries to release a song called The Touch, this song features in the 1986 Transformers movie soundtrack (check the link if you don't believe me).]

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