Time for “silent Saturday” for bad Aussie sports?
Following recent allegations that a senior Orange football team — known to opposing teams for their raucous and combative play — have been accused of threatening a senior referee after a recent game, perhaps it’s time for a new approach to local sport.
Australians have always considered themselves competitive but fair sports, an opinion that was stretched to credulity for a number of years by the behaviour of the Australian cricket team culminating in the exposure of two of our finest as rank cheats using sandpaper to impart swing on ageing cricket balls.
But anyone who has spent time on the side-lines of almost any junior sport can attest to the horrible behaviour of many parents and coaches. Forget Boxing Day sales, internet trolls, and the dark web, the worst of human behaviour is often seen on our playing fields and particularly on the side-lines.
The irony is that, the less seeming significance a sports event has, the greater the likelihood of people to lose their cool. This correspondent experienced far more verbal and physical threats playing 7th Grade touch football in Orange than he ever experienced in high-level rugby league as a youth.
The problem, of course, is not confined to our fair shores, the Columbian soccer (sorry, “footballer”) defender Andrés Escobar was shot dead in a nightclub after an own goal that eliminated his country from the 1994 World Cup tournament; the angry “fan” (from the word “fanatic”) calling “goal” each time he fired into the hapless player.
One only has to watch the behaviour of both fans and players in the elite football leagues of Europe to see the concept of “fair play” stretched to the limit. Or the cheering of English fans during the current Ashes series when Australia’s star batsman, Steve Smith was felled by a vicious bouncer.
The problem of course is that, as social animals, we are prone to react to what we perceive as bad play from other fans and players with replicated behaviour on our own part. Who hasn’t got “caught-up” in the adrenaline rush of a competitive event and behaved in a way that you wouldn’t dare behave in normal society?
Perhaps the novel concept of “Silent Saturday” that has been trialled in America, Brazil, and some other sports-mad societies is the answer.
With “Silent Saturday”; children arrive at central sports oval each Saturday, are arranged into impromptu groups and issued with different-coloured vests to denote teams. Parents must remain silent throughout the match; scores are not kept and there are no league tables, semi-finals, or trophies at the end of the year.
Imagine the relief of being able to go to a children’s, or adults, football match, for that matter, and just passively watch the game unfold without raucous screaming from the side-lines. A pie from the canteen afterwards, an ice-cream at McDonalds on the way home, and back to the weekend. Sounds like heaven to me!