Australia considers itself a sporting nation, we play it, follow it, support it and even identify ourselves by way it. Primarily, we follow 4 major football codes and cricket although increasingly sports such as netball are receiving greater exposure while the popularity of basketball and baseball ebbs and flows.
Summers are all about Cricket, a sport for which we have a rare passion and where the national Captain is afforded more respect and held in a higher regard than the Prime Minister.
We also have a love affair with racing, well, we do each Spring and perhaps the fact that Victoria has a Public Holiday for the running of the Melbourne Cup says a great deal about us as a Nation.
January is tennis month as we wonder at the skills and endurance of the best in the world while our interest in golf is largely proportional to how well our own countrymen are doing, and even better if they happen to be charismatic.
Each Olympic Games we become born again fans of swimming and athletics, at the same time as renewing our instant expertise with archery, shooting, equestrian, hockey and anything else that may produce a medal.
But it is the weekend warrior that has been exercising my thoughts these last weeks. The non-professional, non-elite who commits an extraordinary amount of time and money in the pursuit of their chosen sport.
In particular, I want to look at the lower levels such as a 5th grade game of cricket or a 3rd grade game of football, any code.
My first observation is, the players at this level are actually not very skilled. They are also often not particularly fit and I wonder if the competitive exertion each week is actually harmful to their health. While there are younger players at these lower levels, many are mid to late 30’s and older and most have not played at any higher level throughout their careers.
On display is an overt love for the game, addiction to a competitive contest, a desire to test themselves and a passion for their team mates and club.
Sure, some may argue it is also a distraction from other responsibilities and even an escape from domestic drudgery and this may be the case for some.
What impresses me most is the good faith on display each weekend.
Along with the lack of playing skills, there is a corresponding lack of umpiring or refereeing skills and ability. I accept there are exceptions, but overwhelmingly, the decision of the umpire is accepted and play continues in accordance with the umpire’s instruction. I am not suggesting there is always agreement, but there is acceptance.
The players on each team show good faith to their opponents by way of their acceptance of the spirit of the game and the safety and enjoyment of their opponents. In our football codes and in cricket, much damage can be inflicted by one player on an opponent but this is a most rare occurrence, and even rarer where such an action is deliberate.
Enjoy your weekend sporting contests and be proud of how you go about it and enjoy also that other Australian sports related tradition, the beer with your adversary after the game.