“We have got to rediscover our manners” were the very simple words spoken by Kerry O’Keefe recently on the Back Page. O’Keefe is known for his clever wit, but is a keen analyst of the game of Cricket. Is that indeed what needs to and should occur, or do manners have no place in modern professional sport?
Has professional sport got to a stage where the only thing that matters is winning and nothing else matters, certainly not manners?
It is interesting that one of the players famous for his competitive edge, Ian Chappell said equally simply that sledging is not part of the game and he was critical of Cricket administrators for not standing up and being counted on this issue and indeed directing players that this was not the way Australian Cricketers should behave.
A discussion has started in Cricket as to whether there is a need for red cards, i.e. send offs in Cricket. Long time purists like my father would be staggered that the game of Cricket at test level has reached a stage where sending players off is the next necessary step to regulating player behaviour. When professional Cricket started in England, there used to be two entrances onto the field, one for the gentlemen and one for the professionals. Has it got to a stage where we need to reintroduce separate entrances?
If player behaviour does not meet public expectations, crowds, television audiences and sponsors will shy away. Australia is a proud sporting nation and we love to win, but we also love good sports.
I doubt you could find more competitive people than Steve Waugh, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and John Eales, but part of their attraction to the sporting public is the way they have always carried themselves and the spirit with which they play or played the games.
Either Australian Cricketers need to rediscover their manners or this is the modern face of high money, high pressure professional sport where manners have no place.
I suspect it is the latter.