Thursday, November 19, 2009

Play a sport, reveal your character ...

For a long time, the sports page of the Times of India had a line on the top 'Sport does not build character, it reveals it' (I do not subscribe to the Times, so do not know if the line is still there !!!). But it still remains one of my favourite lines. And I was reminded of it on reading about the infamous Thierry Henry goal that propelled France to the 2010 World Cup on the back of a hugely controversial win and knocked Ireland out of the sport's quadrennial extravaganza.

'Sport does not build character,it reveals it'. How very true !!. Sporting history is full of instances where controversial incidents have played important roles in deciding the outcome of matches, careers and tournaments. Whether it be Maradona's 'Hand of God' in the 1986 World Cup, or the controversial catches claimed by the Aussies on the last day in Sydney in 2004 or yesterday's night most shameful incident, we always have occasions when individuals (or even teams) have behaved in the most un-distinguished manner. And frequently, the mis-deeds by the sportsmen have got to do with their character. This, of course, is not to say that Henry or others of his ilk have a fundamentally bad character. But the question now being asked is, how will be look in the mirror henceforth ? In a few seconds, he has lost much of his reputation to his millions of fans and has also bought disrepute to his national team. To me, that is the beauty (or tragedy depending on how you look at it) of sports. They frequently test your character and reveal it. And most often than not, you have absolutely little control over your actions that come back to haunt you later. To give Henry the benefit of doubt, he would have thrust his hand forward almost instinctively, since the pace of the game gave him absolutely no time to think. So the bitterness against him, as against other sportsmen who have been accussed of similar acts, is not that he handled the ball. The uproar is over him not admitting his guilt then and there, especially since it was so blatantly obvious and seen by millions on live television. He can apologize a thousand times now, but that is not going to take the Irish to South Africa next year. So while committing the misdeed is not an indication of your character, since even the best of people can fall prey to temptation,especially when carrying their nation's hopes on their shoulders. But realizing their misdeed and then trying to correct it whatever way possible tells much about the true character of the sportsperson. And while that character is largely a function of the values and upbringing that each one of us have, in no other facet of life is this character so much tested as in the sports arena.

Which is why the line is my favourite. Of course, I missed the chance of playing any sport with any distinction when I was young. But one thing is for sure, my kids will definitely be encouraged to play one sport at a competitive level. Hopefully, it will help them mould their character.


PS: I read one article which said that apparently Henry told the referree that he had handled (not sure when) to which the ref told them 'I am the ref, not you'. If that is true, then I take back some of what I said above.

No comments: