You don’t need to be a cricket fan to be aware of the current crisis that has engulfed the game. The fallout of the ball tampering that occurred during the fractious recent Test series against South Africa has made front-page headlines in every major newspaper, and even the Prime Minister has weighed in.
We’ve already seen heavy penalties for the players involved, and the coach has lost his job, but the full ramifications won’t be known for months, even years, to come. And while non-sports fans may shake their heads that it has been such a significant national moment, there is an opportunity for us to reflect on what the reaction tells us about our country—and what we can learn from it.
It’s certainly shown how much sport matters to us, but more importantly it has shown that it is about more than just winning. And any doubt there might have been about the influence athletes have as role models surely must have disappeared in the face of the devastation felt by so many fans. Hopefully that won’t be forgotten the next time we have that debate.
Quite rightly, though, there have been those who have questioned how the public can get so worked up about these events, but remain quiet when it comes to issues like refugees or abuses of power. There’s an element of truth to the claim that Australians are suspicious of those who are too passionate about politics or religion, but that it’s acceptable to be as fanatical as you want about sport.
But it’s a mistake to argue we should care less about sport, as if there is only so much passion to go around. Instead, maybe we should care more about other issues, raising our levels of investment in them and even holding them to similar standards.
After all, in the past few weeks we have learned that, when it comes to sport, the majority of Aussies believe that the end doesn’t justify the means, and that leaders have a responsibility to protect those under their authority—especially those who are vulnerable—and should be held accountable for what happens under their watch.
We’ve also seen that we are capable of understanding that people make mistakes, and when presented with what looks like genuine contrition and repentance we believe that people can be forgiven, and don’t deserve to be written off forever.
These are values worth applying to other parts of our society, and if this shameful episode in our sporting history inspires us to do so then at least some good may come out of the bad.