I watched the 3rd State of Origin rugby league match few days back between the Maroons (QLD) and Blues (NSW). It was a great match, played with real fervour and intensity. The game ended in a sour note with a fight between players from the Blues and Maroon team. Fights are common in Rugby league games. It is a brute of a game, sometimes, few blows needs to be exchanged to balance things out. I have no problems with that. The incident which shocked many was the behaviour and actions of a Blues player after he had knocked out his opponent. The player kept punching, shouting obscenities at the unconscious player lying on the ground. The Blues player is guilty of a conduct charge and will face the consequences soon.
People have reacted to this incident saying things like -
"His actions were not in the spirit of the game" (!!)
"It was passion that went a bit too far"
"Sport is being treated like a war"...
All of the above statements may be right. However, I feel the Blues player lost something a bit more fundamental in that incident. He lost his integrity as a player. People may admire these players. Kids may or may not look up to them as role models. But, when you are playing at the highest level, you owe the game a sense of respect and integrity in your actions. Adherence to moral principles and ethical values should not be forced nor should it be a noble aspiration. It should come from within. Sportsmanship and the soundness of moral character form the fabric of the game. Without it, the term 'spirit of the game' is just a joke.
Integrity is an essential component of a respectable sportsman. When it is lost, the 'sportsman' in the player ceases to exist. Tom Peters, a management guru, once said "There is no such thing as minor lapse of integrity." So goddamn right!
State of Origin is a celebration of the game of Rubgy League. The game may be alive and kicking. With incidents like this, it loses its soul.