I’m not sure if you know this about me but I’m a massive fan of a great many sports.
As I grew up I was involved with so many games and sports. I can remember one particular week at school, at the bridge between the summer and winter seasons, where I played in a cricket match on the Monday, a basketball match on the Tuesday, county rugby training on the Wednesday, a football match on the Thursday and a cricket coaching session on the Friday. Now this wasn’t every week after school but it gives you an idea what I was getting up to. I’ve played rugby and cricket at different clubs and, despite the various injuries, I’ve had a blast.
When I started writing The Circle of Fire, a love of sports was something that I wanted my main character to have. I’d regularly heard, as no doubt so many of us did, that taking part in sports was a wonderful way to help build character and teach all manner of life lessons which would have a positive impact on later life. In short, sport was a massive plus to anyone’s life.
Now we’ll leave the sport there for the time being.
This week, the UK will be voting in a referendum centred on membership of the EU. We all have the chance to give our opinion on the topic of whether or not we remain a part of the European collective and for weeks we’ve been hearing from any and every possible source the potential pros and cons. In the US, all the attention is on who is going to be running for president and the media is going nuts with opinion and speculation aplenty. All of the time we’re all being bombarded with messages of negativity for each and every position, with an honest assessment of the facts being avoided in preference to scaremongering.
We’re being told that ‘THEY’ are out to get us. We’re being threatened by a shadowy figure of imagination that has the destruction of everything we hold dear as its sole goal. All of the time, we all hear that we need to be separated from everyone else to preserve what we have and stop those out to take it from us having their way. Amidst all of this, the European Football Championships are taking place in France and every day we’re treated to images of violent clashes between fans from different nations all doing their best to impose their belief that their country is the best. In addition, the world is preparing for the Olympics in Brazil, where again, the nations of Earth will pit their best athletes against each other in pursuit of the prize.
Despite teaching people about the discipline and teamwork that we all recognise as being virtues, does sport also teach us, subconsciously, that our team is better than all others and those who’re ridiculous enough to think otherwise need to be ‘corrected’?
From international sport downwards, there are ever decreasing layers of separation which can act as barriers between us. In rugby terms, I’m a Wales fan but I’ll happily shout for the British and Irish Lions regardless of the number of Welsh players selected. The same could be said from the Wales team. As an Ospreys fan, it makes no difference if there are any of those players selected. The players from any other club could be seen as the ‘enemy’ week in week out but they’re all a part of the same group in the red of Wales. The further down you go, to region, then senior club, then junior club, there are walls being raised which separate us all and pit us all against one another.
Sports now can act as a substitution for warfare. Our forces are pitted against those of rival nations, regions, towns, all in the hope of conquering the enemy as proof of their, and by extension our, superiority. The violence which can be seen around the football in France is where the more primitive aspects of our species spill over and is found around so many sports around the world.
So should sport be moth-balled to allow the human race to grow away from the more barbaric elements of combat?
No. We all need to see the importance of what sports can give the human race but, in much larger terms, we need to all see that separation and walls will do nothing but destroy us. We all need to come together as a race of people. We’re all humans. The media drives a narrative of fear because that’s what sells, the sensationalism. Religions are all fighting each other about which is the right one and nations are being pitted against nations because the powerful deem it to be right.
This world is filled with people who, for the longest time, have been separated by so many things but we’re all just people. Every single one of us is the same and as we’ve grown as a species, so many of the walls which have kept us apart have already been torn down but it does appear that those that remain are being lauded and people are trying to rebuild those which have fallen.
We all need to be working together to improve the world not dividing it up. We need to put aside our collective differences and understand what we all have which is the same. We need to understand and believe, as a race, as many true things and as few false things as possible and divisions and conflict need to be cast aside.
But we should always remember that sport doesn’t have to be the start of bad things. I pointed out earlier that I could shout for the Lions without there being any Wales players present so shouldn’t we all be able to recognise the importance of the game as being just that. Just remember that testing ourselves as individuals and groups is now no longer a metaphor for warfare.