Sports are full of buffoonery.
Whether it is a coach maniacally screaming at a referee, a player claiming his million-dollar paycheck won’t feed his family, opponents taking cheap shots at one another or someone using illegal substances to gain an unfair advantage, athletics are not always wholesome.
Despite being based on the spirit of competition, sometimes it becomes easy to lose sight of the essence of sports.
Not even the world’s largest stage can stop the debauchery.
During a recent, globally televised World Cup match, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez bit opponent Giorgio Chiellini, of Italy, on the shoulder, earning a four-month suspension. It was the third time Suarez was punished for biting, making Mike Tyson seem relatively tame considering he only needed one famous chomp to learn his lesson.
Eight years ago during the World Cup, France’s Zinedine Zidane delivered perhaps the most memorable head-butt to ever occur outside a professional wrestling ring.
In between the pair of soccer shenanigans, countless of other embarrassing, questionable, immoral and unethical acts have occurred in the world of sports.
It’s nothing new.
From the dawn of competition, people have been willing to stoop to any level in order to benefit themselves. Sometimes, they are even praised for such acts, like Zidane, whose head-butt to the chest of Italian defender Marco Materazzi is depicted in a 16-foot bronze statue unveiled in Paris two years ago.
Although we are all too aware of the sour side of sports, lots of good goes unnoticed.
One such act was recently brought to my attention. In December, during a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre, located outside of Pamplona, a Spanish runner named Ivan Fernandez Anaya proved sportsmanship exists among the highly publicized acts of nonsense.
Racing down the course’s home stretch, Anaya, who was in a distant second place to Kenyan Abel Mutai, caught up to the leader, but it was not because of a sudden surge of speed. Turns out, Mutai — a bronze-medal winner in the London Olympics — stopped running 10 meters before the finish line. Instead of pouncing on Mutai’s error, however, Anaya slowed down and guided his rival to the finish line, ensuring Mutai crossed first.
“I didn’t deserve to win it,” Anaya said. “I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”
Stuff like this happens all the time, but in a world where outlandish behavior makes headlines over honorable acts, the public misses out. We get stuck repeatedly watching “highlights” of basketball players flopping or continually reading about baseball players using steroids as the media creates sensations out of misbehavior.
Stories such as Anaya’s occur constantly but rarely reach the surface, and when they do, it is packaged into a three-minute, heartwarming video clip that begins fading into obscurity the second it ends.
Sports are full of buffoonery, but acts like Anaya’s prove they are still anchored in athleticism, ethics and respect. It is just a shame the public is often left feeling otherwise because of an overflow of outrageous behavior.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org