Good sport? You cannot be serious

first_imgPetulance is something we have come to accept, even expect, from sportsmen. John McEnroe made a career out of having tantrums, earning a man who was a ‘supertalent’ the moniker of ‘superbrat’. But not only did he have the talent to match the petulance, he also used venting his anger as a way to improve his performances. The Sun described him at the time as “the most vain, ill-tempered, petulant loudmouth that the game of tennis has ever known.”While few would describe Wayne Rooney as vain, his Manchester United team-mate darren Fletcher not only understands but defends Rooney’s transgressions: “You don’t want to rein in Wayne’s hunger because it sometimes spurs him on and makes him play better.” If one were being harsh, a quick anger-to-talent comparison between Rooney and Fletcher seems to corroborate this view.More seriously, however, this is not to say that petulance is a prerequisite to talent, but rather that some talent comes with baggage. If we can’t accept their immaturity, we can’t enjoy their skill. Take away Wayne Rooney’s temper and you could be left with another Alan Shearer, but you also risk getting another Bellion.But this is assuming that shows of petulance aren’t appreciated. While the tabloids love to wax lyrical about bringing sports into disrepute, isn’t it time we admitted we all love it? Lee Bowyer picking a fight with Kieron dyer, Tim Henman thumping a tennis ball at a ball girl in frustration, Fabregas hurling a pizza at Alex Ferguson – it’s all fantastic entertainment, and frankly, that’s what sport is all about.The only time petulance goes wrong is when you let down the team. Not in a moral sense – who cares about that? – but when your petulance leads to your side losing. Consider Beckham at World Cup ’98 – national hero to national hate-figure with one careless flick of a boot. Sun headline? “10 heroic lions, one stupid boy”.But in a time where sports are being criticised for being boring – football, Formula 1, tennis – largely due to the dominance of one participant, we must grasp the opportunity to give petulant sportsmen the credit they deserve. Consider the outrage expressed after the admittedly complacent penalty attempt by Henry and Pires last weekend. The press crucified them for their arrogance, but the fact is, it was great fun. If they’d scored it, great, but the fact they didn’t is almost more entertaining. Since when is attempting the spectacular – or being spectacularly poorly behaved – to be discouraged?Wayne Rooney telling Beckham to f**k off, or Michael Owen? Ronnie O’Sullivan playing left handed, or Steve Davis? Andy Murray showing us all his ‘orgasm face’, or Tim Henman? I’ll take entertainers over goody goodies any day of the week.As if to remind us all of the fact that Wayne Rooney isn’t the only precociously talented England player to suffer from a short fuse, David Beckham emulated his international team-mate’s infamous hand clap in a match against Valencia this weekend. Like Rooney, Beckham had just received a yellow card and, doubtless feeling somewhat aggrieved, decided to show his gratitude to the referee by offering him a short round of applause.    ARCHIVE: 3rd week MT 2005last_img read more

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