A life lesson from sport
In life, there are challenges in trying to cope with disappointment, hardship, failure and other obstacles in the quest to achieve success. In fact, history is clustered with those who choose methods outside of basic rules, only to discover that consequences can be very painful.
In the world of sport, our beloved national game of cricket is celebrated big-time each year, with a two-day holiday under the banner of Cup Match. This unique event, which is steeped in history, has proven that even in difficult times a positive act can pave the way towards a brighter day for all.
Cricket, always described as a gentleman’s game, was indeed the sport that would help to break down social barriers along the path for the Bermuda we are able to enjoy today.
It would be a long and troubling journey with painful chapters in the struggle to lift Bermuda out of a period of social injustice — that was a major part of post slavery institutional systems. When those cricketers in that very first Cup Match took to the field, both Somerset and St George’s had one thing in mind: victory. That is one of the wonders of this great game. Once on the field, for cricketers, there is nothing else going on in the world.
Although Bermuda has certainly come a long way since that first Cup Match event, this sport can still be a guidepost in learning how to cope with disappointment and failure, fully aware that in life there are rules.
Sport can often reach fever-pitch moments when victory or defeat hangs in the balance with only seconds to spare. Players and fans at times lose control and their emotions become heated. When this happens, the true meaning of what sport is meant to be is tarnished.
A key quality in sport should always be teaching the importance of playing to win, but having the ability to lose with dignity. Recently a young man in America told of participating in a sporting event he knew from the start he could never win. When questioned, he responded by saying that most people can handle winning, but he felt being a competitor was a victory of the spirit. For that young man, victory meant doing his very best.
Most experienced cricketers recognise that a crucial part of this game is the ability to have patience because one ball can alter a situation. The real test for having a sense of dignity and respect for rules is when being struck on the pads while batting. The umpire, after a quick assessment, could send the batsman back to the pavilion by raising his finger, indicating the ball would have hit the stumps.
There is no joy for any batsman when that happens. Often, there is that glaring “are you out of your mind” look before leaving the pitch. However, if that batsman was the bowler, he would be thrilled at the umpire’s decision.
When young players learn why this wonderful sport is referred to as a gentleman’s game, they will also learn that standards of fairness and respect for game rules are as important as winning a match. To keep proper standards intact, no player should ever be allowed to violate rules without serious consequences. That would send the wrong signal to young players who might conclude when you are a good player that rules do not matter.
Recently some of the world’s leading cricketers had their careers shattered, when it was revealed they had tampered with the ball to gain advantage over opponents. This shocked the global cricket community. It resulted in cricket authorities re-examining methods to avoid such blatant disregard for rules that keep cricket very special.
In just about every type of sport, officials are constantly on the lookout for violations, intentional or not, that damage the true meaning of sport.
In the recent incredible performance by Flora Duffy, on home soil, when she outstripped competitors from around the world in capturing triathlon gold, apart from her talent and skills, she also knew complying with rules was a key factor. A couple of competitors were penalised with the loss of 15 seconds by leaping into the water ahead of the starting signal. Officials had to make that tough call because rules protect all participants. Those competitors fully understood this, and showed no sign of resentment while waiting to resume the race. At this level, a 15-second delay is crucial.
However, it did not go unnoticed that the penalised participants displayed respect for the decision, and that is the true spirit of fair play.
With our cricket season very much under way, there will be moments when players and spectators lose control when reacting to either victory or defeat. In recent years, there have been incidents where the conduct of some players fell well below expected standards.
It is hoped there has been improvement in this area. It would send a message to young cricketers that while winning is wonderful, being able to adjust to losing with dignity will always make them better people.
Cricket should always be the sport to teach timeless values. Without a doubt clubs throughout the island are focused on finding ways to keep cricket as a tool for teaching lessons about life. Cricket will always be a very special game, as long as proper standards are maintained.