David Ginola recently had a heart operation, and seems to be recovering well after a quadruple heart bypass. I wish him all the best.
My memories of him as a footballer, was of someone of the calibre of George Best, who had incredible skills as a dribbler, and could weave through defences with balletic ease. I remember watching him playing towards the end of his career, easy to pick out on the pitch with his flowing locks, carving through the opposition. Yet, every time he got anywhere near the penalty area, where he could have laid the ball off for another player, or fired off a speculative shot, he would come crashing to the ground at the slightest hint of a contact, always looking for a penalty. What a waste of such meteoric talent, and what a pity for anyone watching the game.
In football, diving has become almost a recognised tactic – so much so I wonder if it is practised on the training ground – “Yes that’s it, brush past the defender and pretend to trip up, plant your face into the turf and roll around, look anguished, hands up in appeal to the referee, clutch your ankle in pain and pretend to hobble to your feet. Brilliant, now get out there on the pitch on Saturday and dive like you mean it”.
Yet in most other sports, generally, the highest standards of sportsmanship apply. A snooker player will always acknowledge the slightest touch of a ball, even if the referee didn’t spot it. Can you imagine a footballer stopping play themselves and acknowledging a hand ball, or querying the referee when a decision has gone in their favour? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnJdn9zqYQw&t=0s – this is from the climax of the World Championship final (Hendry vs White, 1995).
In rugby, there is hardly ever any faking of injuries – and the few cases that there have been have become infamous – the worst instance I can think of is the “Bloodgate” scandal where a Harlequins player bit on a fake blood capsule in order to be substituted https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uhh2ZS-kT0, but there is also Yoann Huget’s simulation against Bath https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QalzKWdpdyg or Brian Habana’s dive against Farrell (for which Habana graciously made a public apology). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4Tq7f0xec
In rugby, these are rare exceptions, rather than the rule. The commentator saying that “this isn’t football”, is surely telling.
Board games have become commonplace online. I enjoy playing Scrabble. One way of playing, which is quite enjoyable, is to actually help your opponent. You can chat to the other player as they are making a word, and if you choose to, you can improve their score. On Yahoo! Scrabble, one person replied, “I felt like you were rooting for me!” However, this (in my opinion) makes for a more enjoyable game, and helps you improve your own play. I used to play chess like this against a friend. She was a better player than me, but we would look at the position together, analyse the moves and work out the best play. We called it “non-competitive chess”; at first glance, this may seem like an oxymoron.
Quite often, in Scrabble, you come across someone using software to generate the best words – for example, Word Breaker (Scrabble Cheat) – Android Apps on Google Play It can be difficult to tell a strong player from a cheat, but one tell-tale sign of a weak player cheating is a disregard for the tactics of the game, yet a brilliant ability to solve anagrams. Scrabble is a surprisingly subtle game – you can defend a lead by closing down the board and not giving your opponent an opportunity to score, or you can attack when chasing a lead, by playing expansively and taking risks in order to get that elusive triple word score. But what does that mean for the enjoyment of the game – what is the point of simply inputting an anagram given to you by a computer?
I also enjoy long-distance running at an amateur level and the camaraderie of the running community is, in my experience, always superb. In the latter stages of the Leicester marathon this year, a fellow runner offered me their energy gel. I refused actually, partly because it was my legs, which felt like lead, rather than a feeling of having no energy, but partly because he may well have needed a boost himself in the last few miles. Still, I felt this was a really kind gesture.
Sport needs to be played fairly and competitively, otherwise there is no point. You need to be matched against an equally strong or stronger opponent, in order to improve your own game, and the most thrilling encounters are when evenly-matched opponents play to the best of their abilities. For spectators too, if cheating occurs, then the whole integrity of the sport can be called into question – as has happened in professional cycling, such is the extent of doping at a professional level – this goes right back to the earliest days of the sport. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_doping_cases_in_cycling