Why elite sportsmen love their mums
Robbie Farah’s loss over the weekend is another reminder of the important role a mother plays in a professional athlete’s life.
The bond between mother and child – like that between Wayne Bennett and Darius Boyd – is both implicit and unbreakable. It has its roots in the womb and continues through childhood and beyond.
The proverbial – and in some cases literal – teat is forever there in times of need.
Put short, mothers continue to play a key role in their athlete sons’ lives from that first under 8s soccer match to the day they eventually retire from the professional sporting arena.
Manny Pacquiao’s mother angrily stood up for her son following his controversial loss at the hands of American Timothy Bradley recently, boldly demanding a rematch from her shanty in the Philippines.
Dionisia Pacquiao felt every blow that Manny copped on Sunday – and she wants her politician son to get back the belt that she believes rightfully belongs to him (and, vicariously, her).
This protective instinct is primal – and not confined to the Pacquiao clan.
While State of Origin may have all the sweaty masculinity of a Ron Jeremy trilogy, we should never underestimate the role of mothers in this sacred sporting event. The game is tough, the players are tough – but the mothers are even tougher.
In a moment of honesty last year, Daly Cherry-Evans’ mother Kellie told journalists she feared her son’s frail, pre-pubescent physique may not withstand the rigours of State of Origin.
And who can forget Benny Elias bleeding all over his mum back in the early ’90s after the Blues won the series? In a post-Magic Johnson era where players are scared to swap bodily fluids on the field for fear of HIV infection, it was refreshing to see Mrs Elias covered in claret – and loving it.
Speaking of the NBA, it too is notable for its visibility of players’ mothers. It is now standard practice for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant to give their mums a kiss and a hug before each match. Clearly in LeBron’s case, the league MVP has forgiven his mother over the alleged affair she was rumoured to have had with herpes pin-up boy Delonte West.
All water under the bridge now, it seems.
In short, NBA mothers are no longer ageing, glorified cheerleaders – they have the power to influence results.
But while mothers are always willing to defend their sons and offer emotional support in times of need, fathers of professional athletes can play a very different – often negative – role.
Sporting fathers can be obtrusive and overbearing. Take Damir Dokic, for example. When he wasn’t firing up over stingy strawberry servings at Wimbledon or claiming that tournament draws were rigged, he was threatening Australia’s ambassador to Serbia with a hand grenade. Staying on tennis, Jim Pierce grabbed headlines for shouting out “Mary, kill the b****” during a French Open match involving his daughter; he later sued her for a piece of her winnings.
Additionally, players with famous athlete fathers can often feel the pressure to live up to their name. Don Bradman’s son ended up changing his surname to avoid comparison, while Michael Jordan’s offspring will forever be judged against the deeds of His Airness.
Mothers are more important to professional athletes than we give them credit for. After all, they are the ones who painfully gave birth to a bloodied foetus and provided sustenance through the infant years. They are the ones who cooked the meals that allowed these boys to reach the heights of their chosen sport; who braved peak-hour traffic to pick their kid up after sports practice on a school night.
And they are the ones that, years later, turn a blind-eye to their adults sons’ off-field misdemeanours, staunchly accompanying them to court as they fend off various sexual assault allegations.
Why shouldn’t they be able to stand courtside and grab a bit of the limelight every now and then?