I remember years ago, while watching a sports game, my husband commented on the American habit of jeering and taunting the opposition. He couldn’t understand it because it was just not done in England. Of course, this usually occurred only in professional sports. But, then, you notice how parents and, sometimes, coaches can get riled up in amateur team sports. These people are all supposed to be role models for our young athletes.
I don’t follow sports much. But I remember a news story a few months back about how parents here in the UK were becoming extremely competitive (more so than the athletes) and aggressive at tennis matches. Then, just last week, a talk show host brought up the issue of bad behaviour amongst athletes and their fans at football (soccer) matches. They noticed this most especially with football, but not cricket or rugby. It’s very interesting the trend that is developing.
Growing up in the US and having witnessed the taunting, I never thought twice about it. When my husband suggested that fans applauded good effort on the part of their opponents, I thought it sounded strange. After all, it’s a competition, isn’t it? You’re supposed to support your team and want them to win, right? Why cheer on the opponent? Well, it has nothing to do with supporting the opposition. It has to do with showing good sportsmanship. Giving credit where credit was due. You see post-game interviews and those who show good sportsmanship will praise their opponents. If they’ve won, it’s a lot easier for most players to be generous. But when they’ve lost, I have more respect for the players who say, “They beat us because they were a better team” or “They played better”, rather than “We lost because we didn’t play hard enough.” It’s as if the latter group was saying they were better but they just couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. A very arrogant attitude.
One of the ways schools are trying to teach good sportsmanship is by applying the mercy rule. It’s already been in effect in some areas, but they are trying to widen it. It basically means that if a team is ahead by so many points, then the game is forfeited. I’m not sure this is a very good idea as it may teach kids to give up when the going gets tough. It’s probably best just to let them play it out and everybody shake hands at the end. I wouldn’t advocate that the winning team let up in their efforts either. They should just play the “benchwarmers” at that point. Then, everyone gets a chance to participate.
Though the jeering may have infiltrated British sports, to the dismay of the general public, I don’t believe that cheering for their opponents will ever take in the US. The mentality is so different. Society has changed somewhat in the UK, but I do hope that they don’t lose their sense of sportsmanship. It somehow sets them apart.