Thursday, August 14, 2008

You want the Sportsmanship? It sailed long ago...

BAHAHA. I am amused by my brilliant headline. Before I delve into my article, a few brief points.
1) Canada's medal count at the Olympics is currently zero. Week two is where we shine though. Note our rowers blowing through the heats like nobody's business. Baseball, fast-pitch and women's footie. Here we go Canada.
2) Premier League starts up again this weekend - thank the Almighty Jebus for that one. Tottenham's got to pick it up this year... but for the lack of strikers. I still don't want Arshavin, but it scares me that the starting XV (subs included) are so good... because it means something terrible has to happen.

Now for our feature presentation.

Something I've noticed more in this Olympics than any of those past is a real lack of sportsmanship. Ukraine and Russia had a featherweight boxing till a couple of days ago, and I was shocked at what I saw on the canvas. Clear baiting from the Ukrainian boxer, little shoves to the head after the round bell went, and after the loss the Russian boxer refused to shake his opponent's hand. Yes, they dislike one another, fine. But the childish displays from both competitors should leave them feeling ashamed of themselves.

Now we get into some Canadian content - Sherraine Schalm the fencer. First, a little background.

She was training with the Hungarians because Canada couldn't provide her with adequate training facilities. The Hungarians asked her to leave their training facilities leading up to the Olympics because, well, she was a competitor. If I was coaching a team, and a member of an opponent's team was training with us, I wouldn't want them around leading up to a tournament either!

During her round-of-16 clash with Hungarian fencer Ildiko Mincza-Nebald, every point Schalm won was followed up by an exuberant fist pump and a "YIIIIEAGH!!!" or a "BOOYAH!" or a "WHO'S YOUR DADDY!" (or a simple self-congratulatory scream). Every point loss was followed up my a deep growl or an angry fist-pump. One point that she lost she wrapped her opponent up boxer-style, which was called roughing. I don't now whether or not that constitutes roughing, mind, but for a sport where the contact is meant to be made my swords I can't imagine that body-contact is approved. When she eventually lost, she stormed away from the piste, failing to salute or shake hands with the winner, and threw a more-than-classy "fuck you all!" at the Hungarian cheering section.

She then had her interview with Scott Russell, and that's where the fun really began. "[Losing is] like being kicked in the nuts repeatedly, that's how bad it feels. You feel like you want to curl up and die," said Schalm. I wouldn't mind so much if it had stopped there, but no. My main issue is where she talked about the roughing penalty she took... I can't find the direct quote but it was something along the lines of 'Sorry I roughed up their delicate Hungarian like that, I guess it's the Canadian in me' (I'm at work so tracking down the YouTube clip of the interview is currently a no-go).

At any rate, I don't mind so much an athlete speaking clearly, frankly or even brashly in an interview. In fact, it's kind of what I hope for during an interview. Nothing gives better quotes or sound bites than "I really shat the bed on that play", "that defenceman was a real cunt" (kudos to Amrit, who was the subject of that interview about 8 years ago), anything along those lines. But there's a point of ridiculous, in that athletes don't seem to accept the fact that there will be negative repercussions to giving interviews like that, and acting in an unsportsmanlike manner on the field/ice/whatever of play.

Schalm justified her comments by point out that, had a hockey player made the comments she made, we [the Canadian people] would have bee fine with it. I'm sorry, but no we wouldn't. Case and point, Tom Barrasso dropping the F-Bomb (couldn't find the real article, see point 2) on Hockey Night in Canada after losing to the Leafs in Game 1 of the playoffs. There was significant lash-back from his comments then, and there would be if a hockey player swore on camera since. When Jonathon Roy flipped off the entire crowd in Chicoutimi, he had to apologize for his actions (beyond beating the tar out of a player who didn't want to fight).

Case and point, unsportsmanship in hockey is frowned upon, as it is in every other professional sport. Spitting in football will get you sent off, penalties on dirty play in gridiron football make it a surprisingly civil game (for the type of game it is), not calling a burnt rock in curling will more or less end your career as honour and sportsmanship are valued highly. Her argument there doesn't hold water.

What we must recognize is that, yes, she is allowed to have emotion. She is allowed to have feeling. Hell's bells, she's allowed to be human. No one's faulting her for that, not even for a second. That said, what she (and other Olympians) must understand is that they are representing more than themselves, they are representing their countries. Not as politicians, but as people. And if you act in a dishonourable, unsportsmanlike manner, you'll hear about it. She shouldn't necessarily be ashamed for her interview, because she got caught at a bad time and spoke out of emotion. She should, on the other hand, be ashamed for the way she acted on the piste.

To me, the Olympics has been about sportsmanship. The commons gathering for a celebration of sport and all that. Being humble in victory, being gracious in defeat. There's certainly a lot to be said for having the competitive edge in you, and there's no harm in that winning killer instinct, but save it for the back rooms. Personally, I think winning is enough, the showboating is excessive, and the sour-grapes losing just makes the athlete seem more than disappointed, discouraged or disheartened. Acting in the way she did after the loss makes her seem pathetic, and I don't want the name "Canada" tagged on to her antics. Better luck next time, but better sportsmanship too.
Further reading
Schalm's blog entry apologizing for...herself.
CBC article published immediately after the bout... incredibly uninformative but I did use it for simple information such as... well... the name of her opponent.


Anonymous said...

Your post is hilarious, especially the description of the bout itself. LOL... keep it up. The only other blog I've seen which also blows the cover off Sherraine's behaviour is here:
It seems CBC is trying to keep it under wraps since she's on CBC radio a lot, etc. Real good role model for our future generations of athletes, huh?

Amrit Ahluwalia said...

It's actually incredible. When I was looking for the video where she said what she said, or the videos from immediately after her match, or anything of that... nowhere to be found!!!

My disdain for the CBC grew with this, because they're trying to control the spin of the story so that they can keep her on as an "athlete blogger" and whatnot. It's kind of a shame.