Bravado and “me, me, me” are destroying modern sport
The world’s unlikeliest cricket club touched down in Australia yesterday. And boy, do they have a timely reminder for us all.
The Compton Cricket Club is a group of reformed gangsters from the infamous violent South Central Los Angeles neighbourhood. I wrote about these guys for The Punch last September when four of them made a flying visit out here to raise awareness and funds for the current tour. Mission accomplished.
Self-described “ambassadors of peace and goodwill”, the Compton cricketers long ago turned their back on the wildly egotistical, chest-beating American sports culture which has rapidly become inseparable from the wildly egotistical, chest-beating global sports culture.
They’ve even just teamed up with the LA Police Department to gain new converts to the strange foreign game of cricket, in order to help break the cycle of gang violence in Compton. They are, as they sing in one of their excellent cricket raps, “at the popping crease for peace.”
How ironic, then, that the Compton Cricket Club touched down on a day when a member of Australia’s biggest cabal of sporting loudmouths teed off in typically distasteful fashion.
Normally, Anthony Mundine’s Dad Tony is a dignified character, but yesterday, he tore a page out of his son’s songbook. After Mundine clan hanger-on and occasional rugby player Sonny Bill Williams won a heavyweight fight against some faceless fat slugger, Mundine Snr ludicrously said Sonny Bill could be as good as Muhammad Ali.
What’s to be gained from this kind of boasting?
Ali, of course, made his name with a mouth as quick as his lightning right hook. Many of his quips, like “I’m so bad I make medicine sick”, were classic comic one-liners.
But his bravado and trash talk made him the harbinger of a generation of sports stars who combined outspoken lack of respect for their opponents with an over-healthy dose of respect for themselves.
When I first met Compton Cricket Club founder Ted Hayes in his Los Angeles apartment back in 2008, he gave me this fantastic quote about Ali.
If you act like a deity, then instead of being an example to children, and helping them to understand life principles, it becomes all about you. For example, you know who really ruined sports in America? Muhammad Ali. All that mouth. And for all that mouth he had, guess who can’t talk no more?
Fresh off the plane, Ted Hayes was again in top form again yesterday at a press event at the SCG
If cricket is taught correctly, it can change people. The problem with cricket today is it’s gone so professional, it’s all about money, it’s all about egos, it all about racism, it’s all about that garbage we don’t need. We want to bring back cricket in a such a way that it civilises the world. That’s our dream.
Ted Hayes is right about cricket’s corrupted soul. And he didn’t even mention the words “Pakistan” or “ICC”. But you could pretty much substitute the name of any other sport for cricket. Because few sports have navigated the age of ego with their souls intact.
Every day, the modern sporting world throws up examples of ugly bravado and the “me, me, me” attitude.
We see it in over-enthusiastic high fives and ugly send-offs.
We see it, albeit subtly, in sportsmen who refer to themselves in the third person.
But above all, we see it in a pervasive sense of entitlement. Today’s professional sportsmen believe they deserve it all, and act like spoilt brats if they don’t get it.
By far the most extravagant, repulsive example of entitlement in recent memory came last year, with NBA basketballer LeBron James’ televised one hour announcement that he was changing clubs from Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat – a move designed to help him win the title he felt he “deserved”.
“The Decision”, as the vulgar event was billed, was greed and rampant ego as spectacle. And it was a low moment in the history of sport.
For me, though, there was one even lower moment last sporting year. It came when my four year old boy wandered onto a suburban cricket field where teenagers were playing. As I ran onto the field to chase my son, one of the teenagers yelled “Get the f—- off the field!”
I’m not in the “sportsmen are automatic role-models” camp. But I have no doubt that no teenage kid would have acted that way 30 years ago in an era of better-behaved professional sportsmen.
There are, of course, still the good eggs in sport. And I mean genuine good eggs, not just the token children’s’ hospital visitors and Queensland flood cleaner-uppers. Read Andrew Mcleod’s inspirational speech to the UN, and you’ll see what I mean.
Sadly, too many are following the example of the Mundine clan. And there are consequences. How many people would actually respect Anthony Mundine (who by all accounts is a good guy) if he ditched the egotistical crap?
How many more people – women in particular – would have taken pride in Australian cricket’s golden era if it wasn’t tainted by endless sledging?
And how many more fans would tennis star Serena Williams have if she stopped telling everybody how bloody superior she is?
Serena Williams is from Compton, by the way. It’s a shame she’s never met Ted Hayes.
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