Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A literary perspective on tanking in sport.

Currently I'm reading a novel called HHhH.  It's about Reinhard Heydrich who was chief of the Nazi secret services.

Chapter 112 put the current "tanking" scandal in the AFL into some perspective.

Before I set out and write a post about sport, I should point out that I'm hardly qualified.  I don't know a lot about sport and I don't watch or read much about it.  I take a passing interest.  When I'm visiting my family over summer, I become immersed in the cricket because there is no escape.  And then I start to like it in spite of myself.

Perhaps it is this lack of expertise that initially had me shrugging my shoulders over recent allegations of drugs in Australia's football codes and not sure what to think about tanking.  Somewhere deep down, I had a feeling that tanking was unethical - that there is bad sportsmanship at work when a player or team sets out to do anything other than win.  That's why people watch isn't it?  Because they're invested in the outcome, loyally follow their team or country or favourite player and want them to win!

I have been thinking about the disrespect inherent in doing anything other than playing to win and the leadership failure that allows a culture of tanking to grow.

And then I read chapter 112 in HHhH.  It recounts a story (apocryphal?) of Kiev Dynamo, a football (soccer) team ordered to play a match against a team of German soldiers.  They were playing very well in the first half and were ordered by the Germans to lose the match or pay with their lives. They played their best and won anyway. Depending on which version you read this happened repeatedly and resulted in the players being eventually executed.

This story resonated and I thought about these courageous and honorable sportsmen who were ordered to "tank" and lose the match, but decided their commitment as sportspeople and representatives of their country was more important. They would play their best game and win, regardless of the cost.

I believe this to be a broadly true story; perhaps the details are not precise.  It puts today's allegations of tanking in the AFL into a harsh light.  Imagine not playing your best game because you want to come last and have the benefit of an advantageous draft pick at the end of the season!  Petty when compared to Kiev Dynamo who would have apparently been allowed their lives if they had followed orders and tanked.


No comments:

Post a Comment