Recent events in Wimbledon this week have highlighted some uncomfortable things about our sports-loving culture. We love to win and are prepared to forgive our sports stars a great many things, especially while they are winning. But when their behaviour is petulant, rude and over-steps the mark of common courtesy, we are rightly upset.
Yet the fact that our eyes are constantly scrutinizing their performances, it seems that we unconsciously expect them to be better versions of the masses. For instance, the microphones don’t pick up my silly opinions about things I’m not qualified to speak about, nor do the cameras highlight my irritations or outbursts when the heat is turned up in the everyday frustrations of life.
The fact that someone can kick a ball further, glide on a tennis court with greater finesse or run faster than most people, means little about their ability to be a role model for the community. Yet, this is an inescapable fact when we elevate sports and especially elite sportspersons to such a high level of influence. For instance, The Australian, identified in its 50th anniversary edition what it considered were the 50 most influential Australians in our contemporary history. Ten of these come from the field of sports. Only one could be identified because of his religious influence (George Pell).
Understanding our culture means that we recognise the significant influence our sporting figures have, especially on our youth. I suggest that, at the end of the day, everyone loves a winner, especially a winning underdog and it is this story that most powerfully resonates within our culture.
Let's use this knowledge to better highlight the Gospel story, which ironically highlights defeat as the point of humanity's greatest victory.
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