When Sport and its Kings become idols

I was watching the Wimbledon Final yesterday and it really took me back a few years when my husband and I used to closely follow and support my cousin, who back in 1994 was ranked number 7 in the world and who remained amongst the top 20 for a considerable amount of time.  See video below for a taster of one of his matches during the Roland Garros tournament in 1994.  My cousin is the one with dark shorts.  He is playing against Kafelnikov, whom incidentally, I used to fancy and secretly hope my cousin would introduce me to one day…..

Seeing my fellow Spaniard, Nadal, winning the Wimbledon final yesterday, and Spain beating Germany the other day at the final of Euro 2008, initially gave me a real sense of pride and satisfaction, which as the hours went on, ebbed away and turned into more of a “Yes, we won.  So what?” 

Don’t get me wrong.  I am all for sport and healthy competition, and it is wonderful that in this difficult world we live in, being part of something like the Wimbledon tournament or the Euro Cup, can bring such joy and entertainment to the hearts and minds of eager followers.  I admit that.  I watched that match last night and both Nadal and Federer were absolutely spectacular to watch, not to mention Nadal’s Adonis-like torso.  Anyway, moving on swiftly…

What troubles me is how highly rated sport and sportsmen and sportswomen are in our society today.  They are treated like kings and remunerated as such.  They hold a job like any other, and yet they are considered to be in a different league to any other decent human being that honestly earns a living.  As mere mortals, we worship the ground some of them walk on and in this way, we perpetuate the myth that these “heroes” in our stadiums, courts or any other sports arena, deserve to be glorified and paid scandalous amounts of money, as if their efforts had brought about the end of world poverty, racial discrimination or child abuse.  The same goes for cinema stars, singers, etc., whose lives we hold in such high regard that understandably, the fame and fortune ends up going to their heads, and they actually end up believing they are far superior than the rest of us.  Then, we wonder why so many of them have such tragic ends to their lives or ruin the lives of their loved ones in the process, as they find themselves completely unable to live up to the expectations of the millions of people who looked up to and worshipped them in the first place.

Please explain it to me, because I still don’t get it.  I am totally aware of how hard these guys work and how much some of them have sacrificed to be where they are today.  My cousin, for example, moved to the States at a very young age to train with the best, and in the process missed most of his childhood and doing the things that a kid his age should have been doing.  So, to see him reach number seven in the world and fight like a titan at the final of the Roland Garros back in 1994, brought to my heart a great sense of justice and reward for all the years lost giving of his time and commitment to his one goal of becoming one of the best. 

Then, I think about firemen, doctors, policemen and women, teachers, you name it, any profession where people give all of themselves at times, to save and/or help others, and it just does not seem fair that there can be such an abismal difference in how these “real heroes” are rated by the general public or in many cases totally disregarded, and yet everyday we get to hear about yet another sports figure, movie star, or singer who has shot to fame.  Why is it that the News broadcast contains a reasonable section at the end with sports news? How much more different would the world be if instead, everyday, reports were made public of volunteers in Africa or elsewhere who are giving of their time and resources to better the quality of life of those less privileged; if attention was given to all those situations where the courage of one or many brings justice and hope to the agonizing circumstances of some.  Why is it that this country has one day a year where these “real heroes” are remembered on our television screens, i.e. Pride of Britain Awards? Why can’t we have a section of the news dedicated daily to bringing to our homes countless stories of dramatic and hopeless scenarios where the courage, dedication and sheer unconditional love of so many has brought a hope and a future to the millions who in utter desperation are ready to give up on life.  Instead, we fill our time, or I should say, our time is filled, as we don’t have much say these days about what is shown in our TV screens, with hours and hours of sport, reality tv and the like.

How did we ever get here?,  I wondered this morning.  The answer lies with all of us and the responsibility to change the way things are lies with each and everyone of us too.  The next time you are clapping to one of the many current world heroes appointed by public vote, spare a thought for all those “out of this world” souls who behind the scenes and expecting no acclaim, have truly achieved something great and worth getting excited and inspired about.  I know I will!

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