Should we expect sportsmanship nowadays?

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Frenemies. Marlon Samuels and Shane Warne have history. (Image via Fox Sports)

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    Shane Warne, Marlon Samuels, Lance Armstrong, Kurt Tippett – all recent examples of individuals breaking the moral code known as ‘sportsmanship.’

    But should we be at all surprised with such occurrences in the 21st century?

    Put a foot wrong on a sporting field nowadays, or indeed off it, should you be an elite level sportsperson, and you become public enemy number one.

    The level of scrutiny, and at times vitriol, is far more rampant nowadays as a result of the Internet and various forms of social media.

    It is akin to being surrounded by accusers cloaked in the robes of the Inquisition.

    In the past you had to bother to pick up a pen and paper and write to a newspaper editor or wait on hold to vent your spleen on a talkback radio program.

    Nowadays it is as simple as sending out a tweet from whichever electronic device is your current tool of choice.

    Somewhat strangely we have this notion that sportsmanship in 2013 should be upheld as it was in the 1950s or any other distant era.

    In many ways that belief is based on naivety.

    It is actually pushing the boundaries of logic to expect that sport and its participants continue to uphold the fine traditions of behaviour that we have long expected from those on display on various grounds, courts and pitches.

    The world has undergone a seismic shift in recent times with regard to the moral code that is deemed to underpin our society.

    Let’s journey back to 1980, my last year at school – and yes, I did get all the way to year 12.

    I was educated through the public school system in Perth in those dozen years.

    And back in year 12, some 33 years ago, life in high school was very different to what it is today.

    In my final year at school, I would never have contemplated a classmate calling a teacher an effin’ so-and-so.

    And if a fellow student had spat in a teacher’s face, struck them or thrown a chair in their direction I would most likely have gone into a catatonic state.

    But, very sadly, those practices are commonplace nowadays.

    The Teacher’s Union in Western Australia registers in excess of 1000 complaints each year of a physical or extreme verbal nature against its membership.

    Most, if not all of those episodes, simply happen beneath the public radar – unreported and unrecognised by the community at large.

    Acts that used to be newsworthy in their infancy now go unreported unless they are of a very extreme nature.

    The act of glassing an individual – shoving a glass or glass bottle into someone’s face – used to be an extremely rare occurrence.

    In Perth in 2010 it happened on 67 occasions and only a handful made it into the media.

    Police stated that the vast majority of the glassing incidents came not as a result of a fight but in response to a verbal altercation – a nice way to get your point across.

    The spike in one punch deaths has grown alarmingly in recent times, as have the random assaults where victims are singled out by groups and bashed senseless for no apparent reason, save for their own perverted gratification and entertainment.

    All these worrying trends, including an ever-growing disrespect for police officers and others in positions of civil authority, is happening around us every day.

    And in the main we have become immune to it.

    We merely cast it off as ‘that’s the way things are nowadays’.

    Thankfully we have yet to reach the situation in Johannesburg and New York where murders often no longer appear in the first dozen pages of the newspaper.

    Here in Australia, and in most first world countries nowadays, we have been consumed by a different way of life where violence, drug use and other serious levels of crime have become almost the norm – it is simply the way life is in the 21st century.

    It happens all around us and when it comes to much of the violence and drug related activity it occurs in the precincts that many of our young sportsmen and women inhabit – entertainment and nightclub zones.

    Stepping around a bloodied body or crossing the road to avoid being caught up in a physical altercation is commonplace.

    We see it, first hand or in the media, and live amongst it every day.
    And those same people who now live in this increasingly warped new world also play sport on the weekend.

    They do not spend the rest of their time in a sensory deprivation chamber immune from the day-to-day happenings within society.

    Much of the moral fabric of our society has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades.

    We have been forced to cop and accept it.

    Yet, for whatever strange reason, we still expect sport to be played as it always was; with sportsmanship, respect for officialdom and codes of behaviour adhered to.

    In these times that we live in that is a rather fanciful belief.

    Given the major degradation in our everyday way of life in recent decades why should we expect that the three or so hours where individuals are playing sport will be totally quarantined from the society that surrounds them for the other 165 hours each week?

    It is fanciful to consider that if the law of the land and the moral code that was formulated to protect and govern our society for so long is being eroded that it won’t have a potential effect on individuals who cross the white line and enter the realm of sport.

    That realm does not sit apart from society. It sits amidst it.

    Many of the unsavoury things that we see in sport are often a manifestation of our own communities.

    Sport is often dubbed a ‘microcosm of life’, and that being the case, we have to expect that we will see life in all its forms in the sporting arena, both the good and bad.

    Perhaps rather than trying to get sportspeople to behave better we as a whole have to try and get society to function better.

    Let’s face it, I would rather have someone like Warne verbally abuse me and toss a ball at me underarm than shove a glass in my face.

    Yet, when something happens on a sporting field we blow it up so that it takes on a status often accorded a murderer by whacking it on the front page of the newspaper.

    A lot of times in life you reap what you sew.

    And if what we reap on the playing fields is at times unpalatable it may well be because the general environment isn’t always conducive.

    Let’s get life in perspective a little more.

    Very few things on a sporting field come anywhere near many of the incidents in society that never make the media.

    We are what we have largely made ourselves or allowed ourselves to be made into.

    And when it comes to sport there will be a flow on affect.

    To think otherwise is neither practical nor sensible.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • January 10th 2013 @ 3:21am
      BennO said | January 10th 2013 @ 3:21am | ! Report

      Absolutely agree with the premises here Glenn, society is a bizarre mix of contradictions today. But my interpretation is the opposite. The chaos that can rear its head in society is why we should expect better sportsmanship.

      It’s a weak argument and I don’t think they should be but sporting heroes do become role models of sorts because of their profile. What they do on the field is amplified. It may be p1ssing into the wind but I’d like the sporting field to be a bit of a bastion of what’s best about us, not an exact mirror.

      • Roar Guru

        January 10th 2013 @ 5:09pm
        biltongbek said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

        It has all to do with respect.

        Whether on the field of play or off it, whether in schools or public areas, society has lost a lot of its moral values and in my view human rights has a lot to do with it. (Or should I say the entitlement of human rights)

        What I mean by that is every one these days from 6 to 60 know that human rights protect them, but the question is whether they really understand what the intention of human rights are.

        So what young people do is they negate respect for the excuse of human rights as they beleive human rights allow them to act any way they want. What does not help the situation especially with sportsmen, is the fact that they are idolised by many, and the way they are treated by sponsors, coaches, and the headhunting that goes on for them, once again gives them that feeling of entitlement.

        In the end of the day respect is very much about manners, people seem to forget that.

        • January 10th 2013 @ 5:20pm
          Garcia said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

          Damn human rights! Why can’t Australia be more like North Korea? At least there the population respects their authority figures!

        • January 10th 2013 @ 5:56pm
          BennO said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

          Yeah look I disagree with you there biltongbek. The idea of human rights (at least to my uneducated mind) is all about respect and treating others properly. It’s the direct opposite of what you’re talking about.

          The sense of entitlement to human rights, ie the expectation that one is treated with respect and dignity, is only a good thing as it should be available to all. I don’t believe that causes any type of breakdown in society.

          • Roar Guru

            January 10th 2013 @ 7:06pm
            biltongbek said | January 10th 2013 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

            I thought it the best wat to describe it. but let me expand on my theory. when I grew up, I got a hiding when I was naughty. At school we weren’t spanked by a cane, or a cricket bat in woodwork shop made from a loose plank lying around.

            We were disciplined in a way where there were no illusions as to who was who in the zoo.

            These days kids have so many human right laws that are their to protect them (which is nothing wrong with), but there is a downside to this.

            HOw does one reason with a child of different ages, when in the old days a hiding was sufficient?

            Some things should not be reasoned about. you break your dads lawnmower in the 60’s and 70’s you get a hiding. Your dad didn’t sit around a table for an hour and explain to you why it was wrong, he slanked you, then told you to respect ohter peoples belongings, If you were rude, he’d wack you.

            Now I am not saying go to the exptreme. but with the human rights laws for kids these days, there is no consequence.

            Because there is little or no consequence, they have little or no respect for authority.

            • January 10th 2013 @ 7:22pm
              BennO said | January 10th 2013 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

              Yeah I get that part of it and I my parents were the same as yours and as the saying goes, it did me no harm. But my wife’s parents were different. Never laid a hand on em and they all turned out well too. Really well.

              I agree there are some crazy parenting ideas out there and you just look and shake your head in wonder, but I see plenty of good kids too, raised by different methods. Anyway the upshot of all this is I think it’s too hard to generalize about this. But it doubly reinforces to me that we should very much expect good sporting behavior in professional sport. We should demand it because respect and manners will be forever important and sport has a wonderful potential to uphold ideals.


              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2013 @ 9:47pm
                biltongbek said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:47pm | ! Report

                Yeah look not all kids are bad, there is more to bringing up kids than getting hidings, parental influence in all parts of life plays a big role.

          • January 10th 2013 @ 9:35pm
            Dadiggle said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:35pm | ! Report

            Freedom is always taken never given. Human rights are individual rights stated by a states constitution. Which means it can be changed too see fit for who ever is in power. Also it may appear the highest law yet when a person gets arreste you ttake away his right to freedom of movement. It has nothing to do with respect which is a emotion.

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2013 @ 9:48pm
              biltongbek said | January 10th 2013 @ 9:48pm | ! Report

              Respect an emotion?

              So if you are happy you will have respect, and if you are unhappy you will not?

              sorry mate, respect is something you are taught by your parents.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 4:18am
      AndyMack said | January 10th 2013 @ 4:18am | ! Report


      Like Benno above, I agree with most of what you say. However I think we should expect our sports stars to shine a little brighter. Behaving like children (warne and samuels) or outright cheating (armstrong) should be condemned.

      Using someone else’s poor behaviour (or society’s poor behaviour) to justify your own poor behaviour is a little weak in my eyes.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 6:52am
      Darwin stubby said | January 10th 2013 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      I’d never expect a grub like Warne to ever be considered some form of moral compass for the masses … But he certainly shouldn’t have apologists continually making excuses for him – which has happened throughout his career …

      • January 10th 2013 @ 11:27am
        saad said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:27am | ! Report

        Shane Warne is an abusive and ill-natured person. He used drugs in 1999 world cup. Previous days he posted wrong words on twitter for Aleem Dar. He drove his car with the speed of over 100Km/h. He quarreled with Samuels in big bash league. These things are not good for an international player. His bad deeds will fall australia’s status in world. He is defaming the name of Australia.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 7:16am
      Sailosi said | January 10th 2013 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      I was having a chat about this topic and crickets values last night and it got us talking about one of the true gentlemen of cricket and one of the most underrated and forgotten cricketers of recent times, Richie Richardson. I’ll never forget his brutal attack on the Aussies at Georgetown in 91.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

      • January 10th 2013 @ 8:06am
        nachos supreme said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        Funny you say that, a mate and I were just discussing him the other day and how he played the hook shot, which is just about dead these days, specifically how he welcomed Jo Angel to test cricket. As an Australian though, our national team are hardly setting the bar for sportsmanship and haven’t been for what? 15-20 years? maybe longer….

      • January 10th 2013 @ 10:13am
        Jason said | January 10th 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        Is that the same Richie Richardson who lamented about losing the Sir Frank Worrell Trophy to the “worst Australian side we have ever played against”?

        • January 10th 2013 @ 11:07am
          bilo said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report


          On paper that WAS the worst Aussie team he played against. Consider the bowling attack: some rookie bowler called Glenn McGrath, a fat leggie with a blonde mullet who showed a bit of promise, trundler Paul Reiffel and journeyman Brendan Julian. Craig McDermott was the leader of Australia’s bowling attack and he went home from the tour with injury before a test was played.

          • January 10th 2013 @ 11:22am
            nachos supreme said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:22am | ! Report

            How does one twist bowel?

            • January 10th 2013 @ 11:45am
              bilo said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:45am | ! Report

              Ouch!, don’t know Nachos – always wondered that myself

              • January 10th 2013 @ 2:21pm
                nachos supreme said | January 10th 2013 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                I know Billy put in and all that but twisting a bowel? gut wrenching stuff!

    • January 10th 2013 @ 7:17am
      Garcia said | January 10th 2013 @ 7:17am | ! Report

      ‘Here in Australia, and in most first world countries nowadays, we have been consumed by a different way of life where violence, drug use and other serious levels of crime have become almost the norm – it is simply the way life is in the 21st century’?

      Glenn don’t you know the level of serious crime such as homicide has dropped in Australia over past years?

      But with the media doing their best to sensationalized crime within Australia polls conducted indicated that 80% of participates believed crime was actually on the increase.

      “Given the major degradation in our everyday way of life in recent decades”?
      If anything our lives and way of life have improved considerably in the past decades. Some of the areas it has improved include the lowering of the homicide rate, improvements on the treatment of women, homosexuals and other oppress and disadvantaged groups within society(although further steps in the right direction are needed), improving the standard of living and life span of individuals in this national (although this could also be improve in some areas such as low income earners and indigenous Australia) and Australia’s health care system and general health practices have improved greatly to become one of the best in the world.

      Claim down Glenn Australia hasn’t transformed into a Mad Max style violent anarchist paradise just yet.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 8:56am
        BigAl said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        Thank you so much for putting up this post with it’s links.
        I was thinking all this as I was reading the article and my eyes started to glaze over as it descended into an irrational rant !

        Sounds like the creation of someone who left school way, way before 1980.

      • January 10th 2013 @ 8:57am
        Australian Rules said | January 10th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Interesting posts and links Garcia, cheers.

      • Columnist

        January 10th 2013 @ 11:01am
        Glenn Mitchell said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Can you show me the stats that indicate that levels of violence or drug use in Australia has declined. Can you also tell me the stats for things like teacher abuse in the past. I would be amazed if those trends are I. The decline.

        • January 10th 2013 @ 11:48am
          MadMonk said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          He gave you some stats and you asked for more.
          Your premise was “Here in Australia, and in most first world countries nowadays, we have been consumed by a different way of life where violence, drug use and other serious levels of crime have become almost the norm – it is simply the way life is in the 21st century.”
          And a number of posters called you on it.
          How about you provide some stats to support your bald assertions.
          What about violence against children by authority figures, would you rather be a child now or in the 60’s and 70’s. Maybe you should thank your parents for that public education which may have kept you out of reach of certain priests, brothers.
          How about violence against indigineous inmates, better or worse before or after royal commission into deaths in custody.
          All a matter of perspective.

          • Columnist

            January 10th 2013 @ 12:28pm
            Glenn Mitchell said | January 10th 2013 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            Mad Monk, I am not too sure how old you are but back in your day at school how often did you witness high level verbal assaults or indeed physical assaults on teachers? Do you believe that those in authority are respected as much nowadays as decades ago?

            • January 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm
              MadMonk said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

              I know a lot of great kids who are respectful. Outside of that generalisations are dangerous.

              • Columnist

                January 10th 2013 @ 1:53pm
                Glenn Mitchell said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

                It is not a generalisation at all Amadeus Monk. It is simply indicative of how things have changed.

            • January 10th 2013 @ 5:07pm
              Garcia said | January 10th 2013 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

              Note from Roar Mods: We’re moving from a discussion of sports opinion into other territory. Let’s keep with the sports discussion. Thanks.

        • January 10th 2013 @ 11:52am
          Hansie said | January 10th 2013 @ 11:52am | ! Report

          Here’s an article on what has happened in New York (speifically mentioned in this webpost) over the last 30 or so years. While it’s fine to wear rose coloured glasses, remember that the use of cocaine was endemic in the 1980s, which led to a lot of crime and violence.

    • January 10th 2013 @ 7:52am
      Mark said | January 10th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      The nostalgic back in my day it was better us just a myth.

      In the 40’s during the bombing if London while the mainstream of society bunkered in the subway the underbelly if society looted the place. In fact this was the biggest problem Londoners faced…. The luftwaffer only contributed to a relative small amount of destruction.

      Australia was no better…. There used to be reports of mass fights and riots on the streets in by gone eras.

      Don be fooled.

      Youth lawlessness was at its highest in the 1800’s

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