The BBC ran a blog and radio show about death in sport recently. The article was entitled ‘The Ultimate Sacrifice’ with the byline asking if it was acceptable for athletes to risk their lives in the name of sport. I couldn’t take this seriously from the go. I love a lot of sports and like to win but the premise is nonsensical.
I was hoping the entire article would just be the word yes but alas it was stretched out as a preamble to the radio show. In these modern, legal era, athletes go into their sport knowing the dangers. Now if you ask me if horses should be used in dangerous sports or other animals like that, then we have a real discussion. Humans aren’t forced into this unless you are talking about North Korean gymnasts or something bizarre.
I also found the term ‘ultimate sacrifice’ hardly appropriate when we are talking about paid sportsmen or women or those doing it for their own personal satisfaction or glory. Besides you could argue death is not the end for sports stars written up and eulogised in the annals of sport.
Sport can have a unifying power. The situation of Bosnia is a possible example but too often national sports coalesce a Us vs Them mentality or are simply used by the state and media to mask underlying social, political or economic problems. One of FIFA’s better initiatives is to try and enforce the separation of football from political control. It naturally fails which highlights the abuse of sport. Football is too useful to leave to chance.
However returning to the article, an ultimate sacrifice is an altruistic act such as sacrificing your life for others. If I smother a grenade in my trench and die so others can live, that is a sacrifice. Sports are games taken seriously but ultimately they are still games. And we need to enforce that.