I love Wimbledon, not for the tennis, not for the spectacle and not for the strawberries and cream. I love Wimbledon for the fact that, once a year, the world’s best players lob into London and prove that you don’t have to spit to play sport.

Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries

Spitting has become synonymous with some sports. Modern soccer players dribble as much with their mouths as with their feet. It’s foul but not a foul.

AFL, Union, League and even cricket have become mouth-watering for all the wrong reasons. If you’re watching these sports then you’re watching players spit. And if you’re doing so on Foxtel then you’re paying to watch players spit.

With the advent of HD TV and, heaven forbid, 3D technology, never has spitting been broadcast in such graphic and glutinous detail. It’s the one time the words “like being there” and “front row seat” are undesirable. When I sat down this morning to watch England take on Italy in a Euro 2012 quarter-final, I considered putting down spot cloths.

It seems physically impossible for a player to shoot for goal, await a throw in, be substituted or take a corner kick unless he’s first launched a liquid projectile. It seems as vital to the sport as the ball and goalposts. FIFA should put spittoons by the corner flags.

In some sports spitting serves a purpose. Ricky Ponting, for example, when fielding at slip, spits into his hands to aid grip should a catch come his way. And, let’s face it, those catches often stick. But then the former Australian skipper shakes the hand of his opponent after a match. No wonder batsmen wear gloves.

Bowlers are equally uncouth, spitting on the ball to shine it and then rubbing it against their groin. If they weren’t playing our national sport they’d probably be arrested for public indecency.

In other instances, spitting expresses a player’s frustration. When a batsman is dismissed, during the long walk back to the pavilion he often spits either saliva or his chewing gum through the bars of his helmet and then belts it away with his bat. This is often a superior shot to the one that got him out.

On rare occasions, spitting is the sport itself. There is a Guinness World Record for cherry pit spitting, and if you’re allergic to cherries then perhaps cricket spitting is more your thing. When I say “cricket” I am not referring to the cucumber sandwich pastime but the six-legged insect, which you chew and then spew. Apparently there are also world championships in Kudu dung spitting. I have no idea what Kudu dung is but would hazard a guess I’d rather eat crickets.

Beyond the above exceptions, spitting is most often a mindless expulsion of mucous, an ugly habit that has become the norm. So much so that when SONY Europe ran a TV campaign featuring kids playing soccer, one of those kids had a good spit. Sixty people complained about the commercial, but the advertising standards body ruled in favour of SONY, saying it was merely a “brief portrayal of a well-worn habit that appeared between World Cup matches where players were likely to be shown spitting”.

Pro spitters would argue that running around and physically exerting themselves increases the supply of saliva to the mouth and that they are merely ridding themselves of the pesky excess. I spit on that theory.

Tennis players exert themselves as much if not more than footballers, and considerably more than goalkeepers. They play in summer rather than in winter. And with tennis being an individual rather than a team sport, players can’t hide among teammates or call to be substituted if they’re fatigued. Yet they somehow manage to refrain from decorating the court with drool. Indeed the only spat you’ll see on a court at Wimbledon this year will no doubt be between David Nalbandian and an umpire.

Roger Federer doesn’t spit. Roger Federer doesn’t even sweat!

Golfers also manage to contain their excess phlegm. Apart from Tiger Woods, who gobbed on a green at the 2011 Dubai Desert Classic and was fined for a breach of the code of conduct. I found this hypercritical from the golfing powers that be. I mean, they’re perfectly happy with bogeys but they draw the line at spit?

Of all the sporting codes, soccer has the biggest dribbling problem. I would least like to sit next to soccer on a long-haul flight. Yes, it’s part of the game. Yes, it’s been around for ages. But to suggest that spitting can’t be mopped up is drivel. Not only could we stop players spitting we could also solve the other scourge of soccer – players diving on the ground and feigning injury or trying to milk a penalty.

If FIFA calculated the amount of times the average player spits, then multiplied that by the number of players on the pitch, then multiplied that by the number of minutes in a match, and then worked out how many swimming pools of saliva that equates to, rest assured the world’s footballers would stay firmly on their feet. Yes, even the Italians.

Despite my dislike of watching athletes spit, there are filthier habits to be seen on the sporting stage. The nostril evacuation, aka the “Bushman’s Blow”, makes spitting appear positively genteel, as do the actions of marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, who stopped to pee on the road during the London marathon. And on a double yellow line no less!

Hmm, I think I’ll stick with spit.

Most commented


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    • SimpleSimon says:

      03:52pm | 25/06/12

      Baseball players spit. A lot. Especially if they have a dip in, or are chewing sunflower seeds. Spitting seed shells I don’t mind, or regular spit for that matter, but spit from dip is foul; it’s thick and brown and just gross.

    • david says:

      04:32pm | 25/06/12

      Bill Mazeroski was baseball’s king of chewing tobacco. it looked like he had a golf ball in his cheek.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      03:55pm | 25/06/12

      Hate the cricket for spitting…Happens all the time,cameras seem to be set to pick up when the do it.  Or maybe they have a spit spotter…‘Camera 2.. Pontings about to spit zoom in’.  ;-p

    • Karen from Qld says:

      04:21pm | 25/06/12

      I stopped watching cricket for that reason. Made me feel sick every time I saw it.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      04:05pm | 25/06/12

      I’ve always found spitting disgusting and can’t understand why sportsmen always need to spit.  Maybe those playing with mouthguards might need to spit to get rid of teh dry feeling in their mouth.  I play old blokes soccer and my body probably has to work harder than the fit young professonal sportsmen and I don’t go around spitting on the filed or anywhere else for that matter.

    • PW says:

      04:10pm | 25/06/12

      I’ve got a video of the 2003 NRL Grand Final. Apart from the outrageously wonderful result, this DVD is notable for the edifying spectacle of the losing coach (now NSW coach), resplendent in suit and tie, spitting at one second intervals. Watch it if you don’t believe me.

      No doubt it was nerves, but he might as well have worn a t-shirt, thongs and stubbies. Not a good look. Haven’t noticed him repeating this behaviour recently, seems someone had a word in his ear.

    • JKO says:

      04:37pm | 25/06/12

      Hmmm if it’s socially acceptable to spit in a sports match due to the excess siliva in the mouth - when will it become socially acceptable for a pregnant woman - who also has excess siliva in her mouth to do the same. Personally I’d never be caught dead spitting and I am pregnant. But supposidly you have to be good at sport to be allowed to be that indecent.

    • chuck says:

      04:53pm | 25/06/12

      Wasted DNA?
      Don’t go for a ride on an Indian train either.

    • QE12 says:

      05:18pm | 25/06/12

      AFL spitting is the camera’s favourite target.  The grass must be covered in it during games. We used to watch James Hird licking his hands throughout the games and comment he was lucky not to have caught some infectious disease.
      I wrote the AFL asking that spitting, being the ugliest, sickening t.v. viewing sight so why don’t they tell the clubs and players it has to cease. Surely they know that the cameras fixate on the players doing this. I got a dismissive reply saying that the AFL communicates with clubs on the subject.  Well their “communications” aren’t very effective are they.
      We see kids adopting this filthy AFL habit, drawing it up and slagging it everywhere.  It’s unhealthy for others occupying the grassed playing area, it’s an ugly and putrid sight for people watching and entirely unnecessary. In fact we used to enjoy AFL football, but we’ve stopped watching it on t.v. and this is one of the main reasons.

    • Al B says:

      05:44pm | 25/06/12

      So its spitting now, always something isnt it? Any sport ive done its been pretty common to develop excess mucus u want to get rid of.

      The comparison for football and tennis ...not quite relevant, may be a slipping risk on some surfaces. In football or cycling or other sports, plenty of space to put the stuff. Maybe the TV directors could stop showing those shots, news editors stop selecting them ...ahh but then what would a columnist write about alas smile

    • PW says:

      06:56pm | 25/06/12

      “Any sport ive done its been pretty common to develop excess mucus u want to get rid of.”

      I used to play a bit of squash. It’s about as strenuous a sport as they come. Were a player even in the lowest grade to deliberately foul the squash court such as by spitting, it would be penalty match (ie the player loses the match immediately), no questions asked. In many years playing the game, I saw a lot of things, but never did I see a player spit on court.

      It is just as unnecessary in football codes as it is in squash.

    • Al B says:

      07:51pm | 25/06/12

      Squash i can understand on a hard surfaced court, spitting is just rude expecially inside, close quarters yuck…outside on grass who cares. Maybe some of us just develop more mucus than others LOL…

    • jimbob says:

      06:12pm | 25/06/12

      I think that you are all wasting your time - Have you people never played sport ??? it is a sub concious thing that you do - I mean Ricky Ponting isnt going to stop spitting because he is on camera !! and yes, you bring up the point with tennis players not spitting - what about the way they wipe the sweat from all over there body ??? not exactly the nicest thing to watch…..its part of sport, Get over it !!!

    • Biggles says:

      06:42pm | 25/06/12

      Can’t imagine why cricket would induce the need for a spit.  Eating a sandwich doesn’t and that’s much more energetic

    • Bertrand says:

      08:26pm | 25/06/12

      In defense of the bushman’s hanky sometimes its all you can do, particularly if you are doing a heavy workout outside in very cold temperature.

    • TracyH says:

      07:32am | 26/06/12

      I think It’s mostly a man thing. I’ve never known woman in general life to spit, yet I’ve seen men spit in all sorts of circumstances. It’s always something I’ve been curious about; is it because girls are trained not to, or is there an inherent difference in our biologies? Does anyone know?

    • Craig says:

      08:13am | 26/06/12

      Another example of why sportspeople make lousy role models and many, driven by excessive testosterone, adrenaline or adulation, are also often lousy human beings.

      Did Grant Hackett spit while menacing his wife and children and destroying their home?

    • Stanley Mish-Wills says:

      08:19am | 26/06/12

      Is it true that spitting on the street is concidered an offence ?

    • Stanley Mish-Wills says:

      08:19am | 26/06/12

      Is it true that spitting on the street is concidered an offence ?

    • Stanley Mish-Wills says:

      08:19am | 26/06/12

      Is it true that spitting on the street is concidered an offence ?

    • Stanley Mish-Wills says:

      08:19am | 26/06/12

      Is it true that spitting on the street is concidered an offence ?

    • BJA says:

      10:27am | 26/06/12

      Talk about a storm in a spittoon

    • wolf says:

      12:49pm | 26/06/12

      Only 22 responses, poor form.  Please see Penbo or even Ant for lessons on how to troll your readership effectively.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:39pm | 26/06/12

      Cool - lots of people, including the author, who’ve never actually played any sport - kudos on outing yourselves. Everyone else take note for the people to ignore come sporting topics.

      Thanks for playing wink

    • Em says:

      03:01pm | 26/06/12

      I’ve played sport - cricket, football, basket ball, tennis, baseball/softball and I’ve never had to spit.

      *shrug*  It’s not necessary unless you’ve been punched in the teeth and need to spit up blood and bone.

    • Funcut says:

      03:03pm | 26/06/12

      Hi Chris,

      I’d just like to point out that the statement “Tennis players exert themselves as much if not more than footballers” is a commonly believed fallacy. In fact tennis players do not run far or exert themselves much in comparison to other sports. A lot of tennis players will agree that tennis is not an ‘aerobically’ demanding game compared to Football or Aussie Rules or even some positions on a netball court. The skill set and fitness demands are different but on average a male tennis player will run 4-5 Km over 3-4 sets while a football player will run 10-14km over a much shorter period of time with less breaks and often a similar amount of sustained running. Aussie Rules players average out to similar to Footballers as they run slightly more but the game goes for quite a bit longer.

      This is what I find odd also about AFL Players requesting a second bye during a season. A successful European football player will play up to 60-70 games over a season. And run more than a Footballer with a more compressed timetable. If their argument was that they don’t get paid enough, fair kop but they really should stop winging. And I love both sports… a lot.

    • 6-4-3 says:

      03:38pm | 26/06/12

      Baseball players spit all th time whether is chaw,seeds or a build up of bodily juices.I don’t really care….it adds flavour to the game….except for Matt Garza the Cubs pitcher.The guy is constantly spitting whilst he pitches.He adds 20 minutes to the game.He’s a time thief.
      I just feel sorry for the guy who cleans out the dugout after the game….ew!

    • Punter says:

      07:26pm | 26/06/12

      No one’s even mentioned all the dribbling on the basketball court .... sorry…

    • Swampy says:

      01:18pm | 27/06/12

      When Matthew McConaughey lived in our area of Australia for year as an exchange student (1988ish) he asked my middle sister out on a date. She knocked him back because she thought he was a filthy pig because he used to spit all the time. I think she kind of regrets it now.


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