Saturday, 5 June 2010

The changing pace of sports...

I'm glad to have finally started my first blog, as I have been contemplating this for a while but we all know there is a difference between saying something and doing something, and it feels so good when you finally start whatever it is you set out to do. Anyway, before I digress and start reciting parables and ancient proverbs, I will go straight into the heart of today's blog which is about sports (intellectuals and scholars don't turn away just yet). As we enter the summer season of 2010, it seems that highly publicised sporting events are been thrown at us left, right and centre everywhere we go. Currently we have the NBA finals going on in America (Let's go Lakers!), the World Cup soon to start (which is the main event capturing everyone's hearts), the European Athletics championships, and so on. Now in the midst of all this sporting mania, a few things have come to mind and made me question whether sport has lost its value, its message, and its essence. In an era where many athletes are considered overpaid and undeserving, many would argue yes, sports has lost it's value. Well maybe not so much sports itself, but the athletes that represent the sport. Throughout the years, sports, and more so the athletes who represented the sport, have had a significant influence in society, not just in regards to culture or health/lifestyle, but on a wider scale ranging from such things as racism, integration and even politics. Let's rewind the hands of time and revisit some classic moments in sport, where athletes influenced wider aspects of society. The year is 1968, the occasion is the Olympics, the location, Mexico City, Mexico. African American athletes, Tommie Smith (1st place) and John Carlos (3rd place) perform the power to the people salute on the podium, in what was, arguably, one of the most overtly political statements in sporting history.

Now we travel forward in time, and to an entirely different cause. The Olympic clash in 1972 between East Germany and West Germany in the second round of the football tournament. At the time, Germany was divided between the soviet communist east, and the coalition west. East Germany went on to win the game 3 - 2. This would have massive societal implications, eventually east and west would reunite (this is not a history lesson, just using examples to state the case. I urge you to dig deeper if you want to find out more).
Let's jump in the time travel machine one more time, and warp to the era of the 1990s and the location, United States of America, the sport is basketball and more specifically, the NBA. Now for most basketball fans (myself included) if you mention the NBA in the age of the 1990s, one specific player comes to mind and that is... you've guessed it, Michael Jordan. The NBA G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) was not renowned for making statements of such magnitude off the court, but during a post game interview, Jordan was snapped wearing the 'X' hat relating to Malcolm X. It was reported that on the following day, approximately 250,000 sales of the hat were made in the U.S (Bare in mind, that's just for the hats, and doesn't take into consideration, how many people decided to buy the autobiography, the movie or those who embarked on a journey of discovery).
Presently, the most recent example is that of NBA basketball team Phoenix Suns, who instead of wearing their usual logo of "SUNS" on the jersey, during a play off game against the San Antonio Spurs, they wore the logo of "LOS SUNS" on their team jersey in order to protest against a new, very strict immigration law that is designed to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants in Arizona, which, critics have argued, could lead to racial profiling.

Nowadays,it seems that the message being transmitted by athletes through sport has changed significantly. Not so much changed, but it has instead been reduced from a loud roar to quiet meow. Should we expect more from athletes, from sports men and women, who are in the media almost daily, athletes who capture the hearts of so many impressionable people around the world. Should we expect them to speak out as they have previously, because they have a platform, a stage, should we expect them to speak out on issues that are happening in the modern era. In a world where there are still wars, riots, rape, racism, genocide and so on, would athletes/sports men and women be out place if they spoke out on such issues and showed they were conscious? If the likes of Jermaine Defoe and Rio Ferdinand spoke out on knife crime, gang culture and "black on black" crime, would they be out of place? Or on a more international scale, the likes of Kobe Bryant and Usain Bolt? If yes, they are out of place,it is not for sportsmen to talk about, why were we so captured by the likes of Mohammed Ali delivering knockout statements inside and outside the boxing ring?

If they are not out of place to talk about such issues, then why the sudden silence? I leave you with that to think about, and I hope it makes you wonder, What's Goin On?


  1. Very well written man. Brings a very interesting topic to the surface one that has been overlooked. I think the sudden silence of sportsmen/sportswomen is their efforts to protect their image and become subjective rather than objective.
    Very good read!! A.M.

  2. Very good piece, and it's extremely true.
    The absolute difference between Muhammad Ali and the likes of Lennox Lewis, has nothing to do with skills in the ring. It's how they used the platform.
    That is why Ali was great!

    It's very true, sport stars now live for themselves.... EXCLUSIVELY! and that's not cool