Sport: It’s not just a game

December 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sport. It’s not just a game. While watching the first half of the Australia vs Wales match this weekend I was reminded strongly of this fact very early on.

There were two things that brought this thought to my mind….

1) Before the match kicked off a minute’s silence was held in memory of Welsh football coach, Gary Speed, who died tragically last week.

As soon as the minute silence began the crowd broke into spontaneous applause, just as the crowd did during the Swansea vs Aston Villa match the day after the news broke.

2) The emotion on Welshman Shane Williams’ face – looking down, on the verge of tears -as he sang his national anthem for his country for the last time.

For pride and country 

These two incidences reminded me that sport goes beyond being just a game. Beyond winning and losing.

For those who are involved – sportsmen and women – it is not simply a job. It is a life. These men and women play for the honour of representing their country. And I would think that most see that as a privilege. Not everyone gets that opportunity.

Perhaps, as codes have moved from amateur to professional and become more and more focused on making money, some of that passion has been lost in the desire to earn the big bucks. But I think the ‘love of the game’, at the heart of most players, is what keeps them playing, long after  their bodies have given up.

An emotional connection 

And for fans, I believe, what comes with sport, is an inexplicable, completely irrational emotional connection. With the players they are watching. With the people they watch it with. It may not be logical. But it doesn’t need to be.

If sport were ‘just’ a game it would not garner the strong reactions it does amongst its fans.

Why else would strangers jump and down and hug the person next to them when a group of 15 men clad in black won a little golden trophy? Why else would 80,000 people burst into applause in appreciation of a man they hardly knew?

Personal experience

Whilst watching the Wales-Australia match I found myself rooting for Shane Williams – willing him to score, to end his career on a high (he did by the way – much to the delight of the Welsh crowd).

Yet I don’t even know the man. I don’t know much about Welsh rugby full-stop. In spite of that I wanted him to score. I got caught up in the emotion of the game.

It’s the same emotional wave that I found myself riding when I watched my first tennis match.

It was the 2008 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final. Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer. The match John McEnroe labelled as “the greatest ever seen“.

Watching at midnight, from the other side of the world, I stayed and watched for over seven hours – including rain delays. Watched two men I didn’t now, playing a sport I’d never had time for before.

I yelled, I screamed. I sat with hands clasped tight, tense throughout. And when Nadal fell to the ground, victorious, I was ecstatic.

Now, if that was ‘just a game’ would that be my reaction? I think not.

It may not be hard evidence, but I am sure all of you fans – of whichever sport is ‘yours’ you will understand what I am saying.

Sport. It’s not just a game.

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