If you missed the first one of these, go here: Reasons to love sport #1. Especially if you’re not a big cricket fan, reading the first part of this series will help you a lot in understanding this post.
2. Honour & Respect
There are two very well-known scenes from the immediate aftermath of the Edgbaston test described in my earlier post on why you should love sport. Sadly, without violating the rights of the photographers who captured these moments, I can’t include the pictures here but there are links to show what the words only clumsily describe.
The first (http://static.cricinfo.com/db/PICTURES/CMS/106400/106470.3.jpg) is the last two batsmen, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz, perfectly mirrored on their haunches, supporting their sagging spirits with their bats- foreheads resting on the end of the handle, toe of the bat on the ground. It has the air of an elaborately orchestrated scene to honour the death of a champion cricketer or a visit to the middle by the Queen maybe, but is all the more powerful for the fact that it was a spontaneous expression of their crushing disappointment.
The second (http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200906/r392203_1834715.jpg), possibly the most famous moment of the entire series, despite the intensity and quality of the cricket played throughout, is Andrew Flintoff consoling the vanquished Lee and shaking his hand. This was where the Flintoff legend was truly sealed- the man of the people, the heart of the team, but also a man with a heart. There have been bad losers as long there has been sport to lose at, but a good winner, applauding the efforts of a worthy adversary, is a rare sight indeed and the world a worse place for it.
Cricket has always carried a strong reputation as a bastion of fair play and sportsmanship, but respect for the spirit of competition and for one’s opponents does persist in other sports as well. For all the diving, time-wasting and other skulduggery in football for example, there are still moments such as Robbie Fowler’s attempt to persuade the referee of a game between Liverpool and Arsenal not to award a penalty for a non-existent foul against him. It says so much about our national game that his input was ignored and the penalty awarded anyway, and that Fowler was most likely on the receiving end of some ‘input’ from his manager on the matter.
Another memorable football incident, again involving Arsenal, occurred in the FA Cup early in Arsene Wenger’s reign as manager. Opponents Sheffield United kicked the ball out so that one of their players, down injured, could get some attention from the physio. This meant a throw-in to Arsenal, which was taken, starting a short passing move which culminated with the ball being played through to Marc Overmars, who put it into the net to see Arsenal victorious 2-1. Arsenal’s hopes retaining the trophy were still alive but Sheffield United were livid.
No rules had been broken. In the eyes of the laws of the game, and therefore the referee at the time, Arsenal had done absolutely nothing wrong but the established convention was that Arsenal should take the throw-in and return the ball to United, and only then would the game carry on as normal. To remove this cloud surrounding his team’s win (and, it should be noted, against the wishes of the international governing body FIFA), Wenger offered to replay the match. In the end, it made no difference, Arsenal’s superior quality saw off United again, coincidentally by the same 2-1 scoreline with Overmars again getting the eventual decider, and the season rumbled on.
So, do not despair, the sporting world is not all simulation and blood doping and gender testing, with all involved bending the rules to breaking point at every opportunity (and frequently beyond). There are still some rays of light. Chivalry is not dead.