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Why sport is not like life

One can only marvel at the increasing audacity of the sporting world, its economic and business equations. While around the world people of all countries seal their wallets shut, companies go bust, governments issue stimulus packages, and GM receives $200,000,000 just to stay afloat, and within a period of one month, Real Madrid splashes out $A430 million on five players, writes Ryan Butler *. Cristiano Ronaldo being the most significant signing, the transfer fee breaking the world record with $A163 million.
At the Masters of their game: a passion for sport and writing panel Roy Masters and Tom Keneally joined Colin Bowles.
Observations gathered over years of working within the world of sport, both as a commentator and coach have made Roy Masters sympathetic to the realities faced by athletes, particularly the radically developing expectations that the public has of athletes. Masters is the author of three books, his latest being Bad Boys and is working on another on the great philosophical issues in sport. Speaking on the issue of sportspersons as role models, Masters says: “The idea that sportsman are supposed to be great role models is based on the assumption that sport is like life. But sport is not like life. In fact it is very much unlike life…” he said.
“Sports have specific ends and beginnings, rules and protocols. Life isn’t like this. Often it is vague and uncertain and we really don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. What we do know is that there will be a game on this weekend. So because of this belief, people expect sports men to be great life role models, and they are not. These people leave high schools straight into football factories and then professional teams.”

Sports persons he says, were much better role models during the times in which he was coach of Western Suburbs Rugby League Club. “But these guys were responsible because they had to get up to work at 6am to work as truck drivers or teachers, or bricklayers or policeman”.

Tom Keneally, whose latest book is the historical fiction ‘The People’s Train’ and with Australia, history book coming out next month, says sport plays a dominant role in our cultural and political landscape.

“The problem in Australia, a relatively stable country, is that sport can become your entire politics. I don’t think that that should be so, but in a happy country you can afford to let sport become your entire politics. He asked us to remember the politician who once said “I want Australia to be so secure people can go straight to the sports pages”. (Does any reader know who that was?)
Keneally and Masters recalled memorable sporting moments:
– Zola Budd and the collision between her and her idol Mary Decker at the 1984 Olympics, and how Decker lost sympathy when she rebuffed Budd’s apology.
– Pete Sampras playing on into the early hours to beat Jim Courier in the 1995 Australian Open quarter-finals, in spite of his visible distress and emotion about his coach Tim Gullikson who had suffered a stroke.

Colin Bowles is a full-time novelist, and former semi-professional footballer. His latest book is I’ve Been Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart. When asked about his role in press sport coverage Bowles said that “at that increasing intersect between sports and business, there isn’t anyone covering it. Sports writers don’t really want to cover it because involves looking at balance sheets and studying up on exchange rates, and rules in respects to the salary cap. It also invites a lot of litigation if you want to take on powerful groups. Business writers, well they don’t really have the context, or the people to ring up to check things out. So there is this vast increasing aspect of the world, that of sport, that is basically falling by the way,” said Bowles, who willingly fills this space, “typically by default because there is no one else doing it”.

* Ryan Butler is a journalism and creative writing student at Griffith University.

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