ANZAC Day a reminder of the hyperbole in sport

Date: April 25, 2014 / Posted by control

Prior to many sporting events this long weekend teams and officials will gather together, and along with spectators, will stand in silence and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice paid by those who gave their life for this country in various conflicts.

Each of those one-minute silences will be bracketed by the eerie and stirring lone bugler playing the Last Post and Reveille followed by the playing and singing of the national anthem. It will once again stir the blood and amplify the pride we all share for this nation.

No sporting venue will provide a more powerful poignancy than the 90,000-strong crowd at the MCG for the Collingwood-Essendon ANZAC Day match.

For many it will be day of heroes – past and present.

So many sports fans see the people they follow as being heroes and, according to the dictionary definition, they are. The Australian Oxford Dictionary states a hero is “a person, typically male, noted or admired for nobility, courage, outstanding achievements, etc”. Hence, the majority of those who run out onto the field to play Australian Football, rugby league and union this weekend can aptly be defined by the word ‘hero’.

However, make no mistake, the deeds and actions of those involved in any sport pales in significance to the true wartime heroes who are rightly honoured and revered on ANZAC Day.

While the term ‘hero’ is often debated with respect to its relevance to sportspeople there are many other words used in sporting circles that are simply hyperbole.

The words ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ are two such cases in point. Both those qualities will be oft displayed at the likes of the MCG and Suncorp Stadium tomorrow.

But how often do we hear the term applied to those who come from two sets down to claim a tennis match or birdie the last three holes for a come behind victory at a golf tournament? Honestly, unless said golfer lost a leg to an alligator while recovering his ball from a lake on the fifteenth of a Florida golf course it is hard to assign the epithet ‘bravery’ to his closing holes.

Similarly, almost every elite sportsman nowadays seems to be a ‘great’, a ‘star’ or a ‘champion’.

The terms are so often ridiculously attached to, as former Richmond captain Jack Dyer would say, “good ordinary footballers. So many sportspeople are adjectivally described with words that are so overblown as to actually bastardize the words’ true meaning.

Another case of hyperbole in sport is the terms used to describe a setback or an unexpected failure. Losing a match you should not have or being disqualified does not really qualify as a ‘disaster’, or even worse, a ‘tragedy’.

There are tragic events in sport – Ayrton Senna’s death at San Marino or the injury that recently beset Alex McKinnon are two such examples – but to apply it as broadly and freely as it is nowadays is to completely deny the true meaning of the word.

Then there is the word ‘carnage’. Such a terminology should never truly be assigned to an event in a sporting contest. It is the preserve of warfare and barbaric butchery that results in an extreme number of dead and not the likes of a pile-up in the peloton at the Tour de France.

Sport is a vehicle that captures most of life’s emotions. It is rightly described as a microcosm of life. If you watch a sporting event you will likely, along with the competitors, experience many of the human emotions – joy, despair, anticipation, frustration, annoyance, anger, elation …

These are all commonplace during sporting contests and often the drivers that see us dedicate so much of our time to it as either a participant or spectator.

And, there are words to aptly tell the story of what we are watching and experiencing without delving into the world of utter hyperbole to describe it.

There endeth the lesson.

First published on The Roar – www.theroar.com.au – on 24 April 2014